Set in Havana, Cuba, The Playwright’s House is an expansive yet intimate novel about a young lawyer Serguey and his family when their father Felipe, a notable theater director, is detained by state security, disrupting the mirage of personal ambition and stability that Serguey has worked towards. The novel delves deep into the history and socio-political landscape of Cuba in the early aughts and highlights the fragility of individual rights under an authoritarian and oppressive regime. The seamless confluence and meditation of art, history, architecture, the power of social media activism, and the influence of the Catholic Church makes this political thriller an intriguing and illuminating read.
This is an impressive debut novel and second book by Cuban-American writer Dariel Suarez. It was nice to read a novel about a country often mischaracterized and exoticized in American culture. Along with Serguey, Suarez renders the multi-dimensionality of other characters, be it the hot-headed brother Victor, or the headstrong sisters Anabel (Serguey’s wife) and Alida, or the absent father Felipe, with incredible nuance and specificity. Leaving Cuba seems like an inevitable decision that Serguey will have to eventually make, for his choices are grim. But whether or not he does keeps you hooked until the very end.
The Playwright’s House by Dariel Suarez. Red Hen Press, June 2021.
Reviewer bio: Tanushree Baidya is a writer and an analyst. Her work has appeared in WBUR, Kweli, Creative Nonfiction, and elsewhere. She grew up in India and now lives in Cambridge, MA.
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