What’s it about?
Imagine being kidnapped in a forbidden country whose language you don’t speak – and there’s no way home.
When a strait-laced American TV reporter is sent on assignment to Cuba, he is determined to keep out of trouble. But everything changes when he crosses paths with a beautiful and dangerous Cuban chica who calls herself Calypso.
Ulysses wakes up in handcuffs. His head pounding and his mouth gagged with his own tie, he desperately tries to recall what happened. Now, without his wallet or even his passport, Ulysses is at the mercy of his kidnapper.
Insisting that she is in the power of a Santeria love-goddess, Calypso forces Ulysses into the trunk of a 1958 Cadillac convertible at gunpoint. Then she drives him away from Havana, deeper into the heart of her forbidden island.
Uncertain if Calypso is a violent political activist, a common criminal, or simply insane, Ulysses knows he must find a way to escape – and soon. But he finds himself falling for his kidnapper…
Rum & Coke is a crazily off-kilter love story, and a modern odyssey of revenge, devotion and desire; but most of all it is simply the tale of a gringo, a chica, a Caddy, and a love-goddess…
If it were music, this would be in the alternative genre. It tells the universal story of love too though, even if it’s not in the conventional way. Sometimes you need to step out of your comfort zone and try something else, and that’s what I did. It takes a bit of getting used to but if a) you want a dramatic change of what you’re used to reading and b) you want a book with a lot more substance than your average read and finally c) you have an interest in knowing a lot more about Cuba, than this is the book to read. The picture of Cuba is not a very positive one though and I was quite surprised that the book gave such a raw perspective of the country.
The novel opens with a telling how people came on earth, how the Gods made men and women, how we were cut in 2 and we are always searching for our other half. Beautiful isn’t it?
There is a lot of Cuba’s background in the book, layered with a lot of local words and the belief in The Black Madonna, a representation of a Goddess called Ochún (the Goddess of love and rivers) that runs as a red thread throughout the book. Ochún became the patron saint of Cuba and is known as the Black Madonna. The slaves in the old ages hid their worshipping of the gods pretending to pray to Catholic saints and they dressed their gods in the saint’s robes. This dual religion is called Santeria.
Calypso really believes in Ochún and acts accordingly. This wasn’t entirely my cup of tea as the belief in the Gods was very present and I don’t really care about that so much. Luckily Ulysses is more down to earth and thinks she’s kind of crazy too. It was not easy to feel empathy with Calypso although she had such a hard life and she did come across quite crazy and naive sometimes, but she did have her good moments too.
Calypso: “If I cooked as I looked, you’d scrape my pot”
I felt more of a bond with Ulysses, or Jack, as she calls him (for every American is a John or Jack to her). The story is pretty clear, she kidnaps him for some sort of undisclosed reason that is only revealed at the end of the book and then they have a roadtrip that helps them to find each other and form a bond. Ulysses really evolves throughout the story, going from holding on desperately to his job, his old life and his wife, towards letting go and feeling okay with it.
It has a little bit of an open ending and where I don’t like that in any other book, I was quite happy here that some of the future is undetermined. It didn’t need a fixed closure as the story of Calypso and Ulysses in Cuba was already told and finished.
This sure was a crazy ride, and not only for them. It wasn’t told schoolishly but I did learn quite a few things. Cuba has never felt so close as when I read this story and I have a firm belief that the author must have lived there, has roots there or some other.
I received a free copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.