When Tito Loved Clara

Algonquin. Mar. 2011. c.352p. ISBN 9781565129498. $23.95. F
For 15 years, Tito Moreno has carried a torch for Clara Lugo, his lost love. Shortly after high school graduation, Clara escaped an abusive home in their New York City Dominican neighborhood and completed her education. Now she lives in the suburbs, married with a child, working as a librarian, while Tito, still living with his parents, is in the same dead-end job he had in high school. Alternating chapters follow both protagonists through the crises that will briefly reunite them. At the same time, in each chapter there is a flashback to their childhoods and the events that separated them. This bittersweet first novel by the head librarian at the New Yorker creates a vivid if somewhat depressing portrait of the Dominican émigré community in this tale with no genuine happy endings. Nonetheless, the author has drawn an indelible portrait of a woman doggedly overcoming every obstacle in her path.
VERDICT With the popularity of Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, this novel will attract those interested in reading about the hardships of life for emigrants from the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean islands. [See Prepub Alert, 11/8/10.]
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