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Excerpt From "Beautiful Maria of My Soul"

A novel by Oscar Hijuelos.

Over forty years before, when Nestor Castillo's future love, one María García y Cifuentes , left her beloved valle in the far west of Cuba, she could have gone to the provincial capital of Pinar del Río where her prospects for finding work might be as good—or bad—as in any place; but because the truck driver who'd picked her up one late morning, his gargoyle face hidden under the lowered brim of a lacquered cane hat, wasn't going that way and because she'd heard so many things—both wonderful and sad—about Havana, María decided to accompany him, even if that cab stank badly from the animals in the back and from the thousands of hours he must have driven that truck with its loud diesel engine and manure stained floor without a proper cleaning. He couldn't have been more simpático and at first he seemed to take pains not to stare at her glorious figure, though he couldn't help but to smile at the way her youthful beauty certainly cheered things up. Okay, he was missing half his teeth, looked like he swallowed shadows when he opened his mouth, and had a bulbous,  knobbed face, the sort of ugly man, somewhere in his forties or fifties—she couldn't  tell – who could have never been good looking, even as a boy. Once he got around to tipping up his brim, however, she could see that his eyes were spilling over with kindness and despite his filthy fingernails she liked him for the thin crucifix he wore around his neck – a sure sign, in her opinion, that he had to be a good fellow—un hombre decente. … Back to Article

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