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Changó's Beads and Two-Tone Shoes
William Kennedy

Viking Adult
September 29, 2011 / 0670022977
Literary Fiction

Reviewed by Carmen Ferreiro

The latest volume in William Kennedy's novels on Albany, Changó´s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes follows Daniel Quinn's adventures from Cuba in March 1957 to Albany, NY, on June 5, 1968 the day Bobby Kennedy was mortally shot.

An Albany native (we meet him briefly, in an introduction, when, as a young boy, he meets Bing Crosby and falls in love with jazz), Daniel Quinn, following on the footsteps of his grandfather, has come to Cuba with the hope of meeting Hemingway and interviewing Fidel Castro who, back in 1957, was still hidden in the jungle fighting Batista. As fate has it, he meets both and also Renata, a beautiful young woman he marries on the spot and brings to Albany.

We meet them ten years later in Albany, and, as the city explodes in a night of shooting and riots, Daniel and Renata, whose relationship has grown cold over the years, are brought together again by the dramatic circumstances around them. Or maybe not.

A complex book on politics, racism, revolution, drugs, with a good dose of music and a pinch of the supernatural, Changó's Beads and Two-Tone Shoes is not a book to rush through but one to read at leisure to better capture its rhythm. Its characters, bigger than life, seem more an excuse to tell a story, than real people and the story is itself difficult to define, a story of an island and a city and of its people. Or maybe about what it means to be a human being and to grow older.

A good read that will entertain you, teach you a thing or two and make you think. What more could a book be?


Reviewer Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban is the author of a YA fantasy Two Moon Princess and four nonfiction titles.
Reviewed 2011
© 2011