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I am not often at a loss for words, but in reading Michael Henry’s Luffing to Cuba, I find myself somewhat confounded. Part of that may be the Coda with which he finishes the book. Part is also the extreme changes to life we have experienced in the year since his adventure.
Michael Henry is a writer of many parts. Here on Ricochet he has often shared humorous fiction based on politics. They tend to be very light pieces. His fictional novels are mostly legal thrillers. They are serious in content, although there is often light banter between characters and light moments within the novels. I have commented before that his Willie Mitchell Banks character muddles through the stories rather than being the lantern-jawed tough guy who knows all the answers. Luffing to Cuba falls somewhere between the two while also being mostly non-fiction. Or perhaps I should say that it is non-fiction with flights of fancy interjected throughout. While in a way being of a piece and on the spectrum of his other writing, it has a very different feel, since the people and events are real.
Part of the difference is that a novel or short humorous piece of writing has a goal. A travelogue is more of a record of things that happened on a trip and can be a mishmash of impressions and adventures that in the end return the author home, perhaps changed somewhat, perhaps not changed at all.
In Luffing to Cuba, there are a handful or more of sections depending on how one divides it up. My own division would be the introduction, getting the sailing vessel to Florida, the interlude where they fly back home and Michael speaks more on the subject of his neighbor who owns the sailing vessel, the assembly of the crew and problems before the race, the race, three days in Cuba, and then the trip back home. However one divides it, it is both a fun ride along with an unknowledgeable amateur in a sailing race and a look at Cuba from a fairly average American’s perspective.
The views of Cuba are particularly poignant at this time with so many of us locked away in the CoViD gulag of our homes, praying to find toilet paper in our brief scavenging forays abroad. We have to put up with this for a few months for reasons of contagious disease. Cuba has suffered under the contagious disease of communism for more than sixty years.
The half-page coda is sad and makes the travelogue all the more real. It contains an event that is easily searchable on the Internet to come up with the obituaries and news stories.
It’s not a long book, about thirty thousand words. Were it fiction, it would be considered novella length. It’s well worth the read for the strange fugues into Michael’s mind’s inner workings and for the turns of phrase and descriptions, such as his saying that a modern cruise ship loomed over Habana’s Old Town section like a Death Star. It is as much a travelogue of his mind as of his trip to Cuba.
Michael has made this book available for a few days for free, and while Amazon doesn’t list the normal price after one has acquired a Kindle book, I believe the usual price is $2.99. Even if you get in after the give-away, it’s worth the price for the laughs and insights.Published in