Though I’ve never read any of Oscar Hijuelos’s fiction (not for lack of wanting to… I’ve always been interested in Hijuelos, it just hasn’t happened yet), I was deeply intrigued by his memoir Thoughts Without Cigarettes. Hijuelos moved to the United States when he was just a young boy and Thoughts Without Cigarettes chronicles his life from before his birth, when his parents met, to his struggle for success as an adult and fiction writer. Though I have never read any of Hijuelos’s fiction, it’s clear to see through this memoir how fabulous of a writer he is. Some of my very favorite parts were in the beginning when he was talking about his visit to Cuba as a young boy. He gets across that dreamy reality that is a childhood memory so well.
A lot of times it feels as though you are reading fiction or even poetry, Hijuelos just has a talent for describing every day things with beautiful language that makes it seem unreal or better than reality. That’s not a complaint or a bad thing at all, in fact I love reading memoirs like this. Like I said in my post about Breaking Up with God, everyone has a story to tell, it’s just about how well you tell it. Hijuelos has a pretty remarkable story and he tells it brilliantly. When Hijuelos moves on from telling the story of his childhood this dreamy quality disappears a little bit, but rightfully so.
My biggest complaint is that this book is long, probably longer than a memoir needs to be and there certainly were parts that interested me more than others. It’s a difficult book to get into because the amount of detail, but I recommend picking up this book for an interesting story about finding your place in between two cultures, writing, and family.
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for sending me a copy of this book to review!