The Domino Diaries: My Decade Boxing with Olympic Champions and Chasing Hemingway's Ghost in the Last Days of Castro's Cuba

Picador. Jun. 2015. 304p. ISBN 9781250043702. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781250043719. SPORTS
OrangeReviewStarButler (A Cuban Boxer's Journey) asks you to imagine walking down the street and encountering a beautiful, sensuous woman. You catch her eye and she smiles, baring rotted teeth, a situation that is too common in Cuba. He also asks that you consider that many Cubans love their education and health-care systems and still praise the revolution; while others, despise their living conditions, set out on rafts to escape; and yet others, such as prominent Cuban athletes who are revered for staying home even though they could become wealthy in the United States, are conflicted. These disconnects typify the Cuba that Butler, a Canadian drawn by a love of Ernest Hemingway and boxing, found during visits over a dozen years to this paradoxical island. Just a few of the experiences he relates are interviewing the person who was the inspiration for Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea and even boxing legend Teofilo Stevenson, who turned down millions to stay in Cuba and ultimately died an impoverished alcoholic after bedding one of Fidel Castro's granddaughters.
VERDICT Focusing on Dickensian characters as well as boxing, Butler's gonzo journalism should have broad appeal.
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