Escape from Castro’s Cuba, by Tim Wendel

“When it comes to Cuba, there are always surprises. Nothing goes as planned.”

It’s 2016, and Billy Bryan has returned to Cuba. Billy’s playing days are far in the past, but his role in a movie has brought him back to the baseball diamonds of the country that is what a friend calls one of Billy’s angels–a place where “you’ve learned something important, met someone special … the places you can always picture when you close your eyes.”

While in Cuba, a talented young shortstop named Gabriel Santos catches Billy’s eye with his play on the diamond. When Billy’s daughter, Eván, tracks Santos down and learns of his dream to play baseball in the United States, she convinces Billy that helping Santos will be the revenge they’d both like to get against the Cuban powers-that-be they believe are responsible for the death of the woman Billy loved (and Eván’s mother) Malena Fonseca.

First, if you haven’t read Castro’s Curveball, the book for which Escape from Castro’s Cuba is the sequel, here’s the review of it that I wrote: Castro’s Curveball Review. If you don’t want to click that link, just know that I thought it was a great book, and it was with some trepidation that I started the sequel. I always worry that the second book in any series won’t live up to the first.

Thank goodness my fears were unfounded.

Escape from Castro’s Cuba is completely engrossing with the great character development and well-done action scenes that I’ve come to expect from Tim Wendel. As was the case in Castro’s Curveball, Cuba and its past are painted with as much depth as any of the people in the book, and Billy Bryan’s love for the island is as evident as his sadness over what it has become.

And let’s talk about those people in the book. My love for Billy Bryan is documented in my review of Castro’s Curveball, and nothing in this new novel changes my feelings for him. I also adore Eván and Cassy, Billy’s daughters. Their relationships with Billy–their bossiness and occasional exasperation mixed with obvious love and respect–made me miss my own dad.

Although more baseball scenes would have been nice because Tim Wendel writes baseball action so darn well (and because more baseball is always a good thing), I do appreciate how tight this story is. Wendel doesn’t waste words, but he still manages to incorporate all the extra little things I appreciate in a book–things that will take a book from good to great for me: pretty turns of phrase where appropriate, thought-provoking insights, and clear settings that allow me to be stay centered and immersed in a story.

Finally, I don’t know how a book becomes a movie, but I think this story would make a terrific one. Lots of action and atmosphere, wonderful characters, and beautiful settings  … I’d definitely go see this one on the big screen. Could someone make that happen, please?

Many thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for providing me a copy of the e-book in exchange for my honest review.

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