The Cigar Roller: A Novel

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His body no longer works, but his mind is very much alive, as is his ruthless and audacious wit. His only human contact is with the callous nurse who constantly scolds him, the orderly who barely acknowledges him, and the nun who prays for Amadeo's salvation while he fantasizes about what's under her habit.

One day Nurse feeds him mango from a baby-food jar - a departure from the usual bland mush - and the taste of it on his tongue brings memories of his life in Havana flooding back.

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  4. Royalty in the New world; or, The Prince of Wales in America.
  5. The storytellers who read aloud to Cuban cigar rollers;
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Once a master cigar roller in Cuba and an imperious patriarch of enormous appetites, Amadeo now confronts the long-buried facts of his previously unexamined life. The Cigar Roller is an evocative portrait of a man whose life - once governed unapologetically by his most base urges - is now reduced mercilessly to its most basic functions.

And yet even paralyzed and slobbering, Terra remains an unsympathetic character. Medina makes him out to be a kind of godfather, akin to a mambo king, but in facing death he lacks the wisdom of Tolstoy's Ivan and the colorful end-of-time relationships with supporting characters that Ondaatje provides his patient.

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Cigar Aficionado

Nurse, Nurse II and Orderly, Terra's impersonally named hospital attendants, act as little more than stagehands in Terra's drama. When he reflects on the events of his life, it appears that his mastery at rolling full-bodied cigars sits as the centerpiece on his shelf of pride. He has made his deepest connections with tobacco.

It's hard to tell whether Medina intends the Cuban cigar to symbolize old-time Cuba, machismo, ultimate pleasure or perfection -- possible when rolling a cigar, impossible when living a life, as Terra's recollections make abundantly clear. This novel has large themes: memory, forgetting and the underpinnings of character.

What a $1,000 Cigar Book Looks Like

Yet "The Cigar Roller" feels strangely small when compared with his previous novels. In those books, the layers of politics, history and personal drama combine to create measured, searching tales. Sometimes a cigar roller is just a cigar roller.

The Cigar Roller: A Novel
The Cigar Roller: A Novel
The Cigar Roller: A Novel
The Cigar Roller: A Novel
The Cigar Roller: A Novel
The Cigar Roller: A Novel

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