Review: Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Robuck

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: NAL Trade (September 4, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0451237889
  • Source: Publisher

Mariella Bennet is the the daughter of an American fisherman and a Cuban woman living in Key West during the Depression. Since her father passed away, Mariella is now the sole breadwinner of the family, doing menial labor to bring in a few dollars. Desperate to feed her mother and two young sisters, Mariella bets on a risky boxing match. Her actions catch the eyes of two men: famous author Ernest Hemingway and Gavin Murray, a WWI veteran.

Mariella is soon hired as a maid by Hemingway’s wife, Pauline. She is soon witness to the Hemingway’s lavish lifestyle and Hemingway’s own…predilection for young women. Hemingway, whom she refers to as “Papa” as many others do, doesn’t hide his attraction to the young and attractive Mariella. The only thing preventing Mariella to succumbing to Hemingway’s flirtations, other than her own morals, is the attractive Gavin Murray.

Gavin gives Mariella something others, including Hemingway, have not: the faith and courage to trust and seek out her own dreams. Having suffered his own loss and pain during the war, Gavin and Mariella quickly form a unique and genuine bond, each willing to help one another heal from the pain their lives have dealt them. Their love is a true and pure one, completely opposite of the fate Mariella would have been dealt had she succumbed to Hemingway’s flirtation.

When Mariella is asked to join the Hemingway family in their summer vacation to the to the island of Bimini, Mariella is torn between leaving her family behind and the opportunity such a duty would afford her. For the first time in her life, she is able to live like the “better half” does, enjoying luxuries she’s never had the opportunity to experience. This time away from her family allows her to reflect on the life she has, and the life she want, and really gives her the inspiration to seek out her dreams.

When Florida is hit by the Labor Day hurricane, one of the strongest storms to have ever make landfall in this country, Mariella fears she has lost everything she has ever loved. It is this final push that motivates her to have the life her father would have wanted and not necessarily the life she has been dealt.

Hemingway’s Girl is an incredibly descriptive, enormously addictive read. The manner in which Robuck creates the setting is truly remarkable, reeling the reader into a setting that, while technically a paradise on earth, is shadowed by pain and tragedy. She touches on a number of issues, including the fate of veterans after the war. The characters she builds are incredibly well-developed, so realistic. I found myself rooting for Mariella and Gavin, a couple that was dealt so much pain that they deserved to be happy together.

The build up to the climax is so expertly and perfectly timed, blowing in unexpectedly much like the hurricane that caused so much devastation. I wasn’t prepared for the emotions I felt or for the tears I shed, but in sadness and in happiness.

Robuck’s respect and adoration of Hemingway is also clear in her depictions of this renowned author. She doesn’t sugar-coat or hide any aspect of this man, accurately portraying him and his own decline into depression.

If you are looking for a novel full of rich historical detail, complex relationships and a completely mesmerizing setting, pick up a copy of Hemingway’s Girl. It’s been years since I have read any of Hemingway’s work, yet this novel has compelled me to reunite myself with the man everyone referred to with adoration as “Papa.”  Highly, highly recommended.

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