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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Santa Rita Stories: Coming of Age in a Cuban Fishing Town is a historical short story collection written by Andrew J. Rodriguez. The stories are set in Santa Rita, a small town in Cuba, in the mid 1950s, and they revolve around the friendship of an older, homeless man, Pedro, and Carlos, a teenager. Pedro lives on a wharf in a battered, termite-ridden shack. Most of the villagers avoid Pedro because he’s an alcoholic and has poor hygiene, in other words, he smells pretty foul most of the time. But there’s a side to Pedro that only the workers on the wharf and Carlos know about. Pedro’s shack is lined with piles of books and magazines, and he reads incessantly, and he loved and lost a wonderful woman many years ago. Carlos comes from a relatively strict family and finds Pedro to be the mentor and friend he discusses life, love and growing up with.
Andrew J. Rodriguez’s historical short story collection Santa Rita Stories gives the reader a series of snapshots in time that are unforgettable and poignant. I loved each of the stories in this collection, though I do have some favorites. One favorite is entitled Christmas in Santa Rita. It begins with the image of Carlos and his mother tying the branches they've found into a facsimile of a blue spruce, and it follows with Carlos, senior, steadfastly enduring the itchy and uncomfortable process of decorating the tree with angel hair. In another tale, Carlos and Pedro discuss Veronica, who has asked Carlos to be her escort at her 15th birthday party, and their talk turns into the facts of life discussion Carlos’ parents could never have given him. Rodriguez writes plainly, yet very eloquently at the same time, and as I read each tale I found myself more and more drawn into that little village and the lives of the people who lived there. Santa Rita Stories is a treasure for those living in the United States who have never been able to visit that forbidden country so close to Florida’s coast and have always been curious about the place and the people who live there. It’s most highly recommended.