Reviews for Here in Berlin

by Cristina Garcia

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

*Starred Review* Feeling untethered after the collapse of her second marriage and estrangement from her mother, an unnamed Cuban American woman travels to Berlin and transforms herself into an oral historian, eliciting the traumatic, shameful, bemused, or unapologetic memories of WWII survivors. Together their tales form a jarring and haunting choral work of remembrance and pragmatism, pride and regret. The characters, subtly linked by past deeds, residency in a nursing home, or as patients of an African eye doctor with her own striking backstory, reveal a staggering array of war and postwar experiences. Garcia (King of Cuba, 2013), a transcendentally imaginative, piquantly satiric, and profoundly compassionate novelist, dramatizes the helter-skelter of lives ruptured by tyranny, war, and political upheavals with sharp awareness of unlikely multicultural alliances. The nearly 40 entrancing and unnerving recitations include revelations of the struggles of a starving German girl saved by an African American soldier, a German who discovers that his birth mother was Cuban, a Stasi spy forced to be a homosexual decoy, sisters running a Nazi sex club, and a war-crimes investigative lawyer. With echoes of W. G. Sebald and Günter Grass, Garcia has created an intricate, sensitive, and provocative montage revolving around the question: Do people remember only what they can endure, or distort memories until they can endure them? --Seaman, Donna Copyright 2017 Booklist

Library Journal
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This latest from García, a National Book Award finalist for Dreaming in Cuban, recounts conversations held by the narrator, known only as the "visitor," with strangers around modern-day Berlin. Most of the interactions are with people who lived through World War II, from a Jewish woman who hid in a coffin built by her husband to a woman who defended former Nazis in court. We hear the story of one woman who performs cataract surgery and another who is happy that her cataracts have blurred her vision so she can no longer see her reflection in the mirror. Others have more anecdotal stories, e.g., a doppelganger of Hitler's wife, Eva Braun, and a man who was commissioned to create a new dance craze by the German Ministry of Culture. VERDICT Unfortunately, most of García's vignettes are only a few pages long, leaving readers no chance of getting to know the emotions or details of the characters' lives. This novel touches on complex themes such as exile, memory, and life in wartime but without much depth.-Kate Gray, Boston P.L., MA © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly
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A nameless Visitor, lonely and insecure, spends several months in Berlin during 2013, absorbing the stories of dozens of people whose lives have been shaped, or twisted out of shape, by the Second World War and its aftermath. With the vividness-and unreliability-of a fevered hallucination, they tell haunting, and occasionally intersecting, stories that last only a few pages but linger much longer. An elderly Cuban, visiting the city for a funeral, recalls being kidnapped as an adolescent by the sailors on a German submarine, and then returned months later to his astonished family. A woman often mistaken for Eva Braun first embraces the similarity and then disguises it. A centenarian recalls visiting the United States in 1935 to research "the oratorical styles of black preachers in the South" for the benefit of Hitler. Garcia (Dreaming in Cuban) evokes a multicultural Berlin, shaped by those who arrived in East Berlin from Cuba, Angola, and Russia. The novel's many excellent characters and their stories combine to create a sense of a city where, as an amnesiac photojournalist puts it, the ghosts "aren't confined to cemeteries." (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.