Telex From Cuba Summary & Study Guide

Rachel Kushner
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Telex From Cuba Summary & Study Guide Description

Telex From Cuba Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on Telex From Cuba by Rachel Kushner.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Kushner, Rachel. Telex from Cuba. Scribner, 2009.

In January 1958, 13-year-old K.C. Stites woke to a blood red sky in Oriente Province, Cuba. His father rushed from the family mansion, paid for from his income as manager of United Fruit Company’s Cuba division. The sugarcane fields, valuable crops cultivated by migrant workers under terrible conditions, were on fire. Mr. Stites suspected the mountain rebels had set the fields ablaze. They were led by the Castro brothers, and K.C.’s older brother Del had joined their ranks the month before.

Only six years earlier, Rachel K, a Cuban showgirl, had flown above the same fields with Mr. Stites. He had hired her company for the weekend. When she returned home to Havana, she relaxed by painting on her fishnet stockings with mascara, then rushed to perform her Zazou dance at the Cabaret Tokio. Afterward, she met President Prio, a regular visitor at the cabaret. They were eating ice cream when news arrived of a coup led by General Batista.

It was the summer of 1952, and eight-year-old Everly Lederer was excited for her family’s move from Tennessee to Cuba, where her father would work at the newly opened Nicaro nickel plant. After a stormy ride from Miami to Havana, her family began the long drive to their new home. Everly’s mother supplied them all with bland ham sandwiches, and they spent a day visiting other Americans in the nearby town of Preston before taking the boat to Nicaro.

When he heard about the coup, Christian de la Maziere headed straight to Cuba, hoping to apply his skills as an “ex-Charlemagne Division Waffen SS, minor aristocrat, [and] memoirist” (55) to find work as a mercenary and arms runner. That night at the Cabaret Tokio, he was captivated by a dark, mysteriously attractive woman: Rachel K. He returned night after night, until they finally spoke. She told him she was of French extraction, and that her mother had abandoned her at the cabaret as a young girl.

Eight-year-old K.C. and 12-year-old Del were reeling in a hammerhead shark after a long battle when the Allains arrived in Preston. Hatch and his brother were going to work as overseers on the sugarcane plantation. They brought their large working-class Creole family with them, and K.C. developed a friendship with a boy his own age, Curtis Jr. But when K.C. accidentally knocked Curtis Jr. off a balcony during a fight, seriously injuring him, their friendship was severed. The arrival of other American playmates in Nicaro soon distracted K.C.

To celebrate the opening of the Nicaro nickel mine, investor Mr. Luis Gonzalez threw a party in his large rustic hunting lodge. The American employees and their wives discussed living in the tropics and drank copious cocktails. Mrs. Blythe Carrington, frustrated with her flirtatious part-Cuban husband Tip and annoying teenage twins Pamela and Val, got very drunk. Meanwhile, beautiful Mrs. Charmaine Mackey moved dreamily about the party, only speaking to Mr. Gonzalez, whom she felt a strange attraction to.

Everly Lederer was enjoying herself in Nicaro. Every Saturday she visited the Stites’ home to play their piano. Mrs. Stites loved when she played Chopin. She also had developed a crush on Willy, the Lederer’s young Haitian servant. He was charming and spoke three languages, and Everly thought he was brilliant.

When the Castro brothers visited the Cabaret Tokio, Rachel K spoke to them like she would any new political customers. However, after only a short conversation, they won her over to their cause. She put them in contact with the former President Prio, who helped them get money for weapons, and began feeding them information from Batista, though La Maziere advised her against taking such risks. He himself was starting to become involved with the rebels, and his picture was distributed to the mines with the warning that he was a known revolutionary sympathizer.

Del went missing before the Christmas of 1957. Assuming he was sulking about being sent to boarding school the next semester, the Stites left for Havana without him. They were swept up in a series of luxurious parties and dinners, but when they returned to Preston, they were shocked to find Del still gone. Three months later, a letter from Del arrived, confirming K.C.’s suspicion that he had joined Castro’s rebels.

As Rachel K’s affair with Batista became more intimate, he began trusting her with more and more information, though he was also becoming gradually more paranoid of the revolutionary forces. Meanwhile, her relationship with La Maziere continued, and they now met for sex outside the cabaret. Though she found him very attractive, Rachel K began to feel that their passion was empty compared to her revolutionary cause. When she kicked him out of her apartment, La Maziere decided to join the rebels in the mountains. He began training them in his emotionless, brutal kind of warfare.

When the Lederers and the rest of the Americans at Nicaro returned from a Preston pool party for K.C.’s fourteenth birthday, they were shocked to find their boat met by rebels at the port. The men were taken as hostages to the mountains, and despite their families’ worst fears, they were returned safe and now even sympathetic to the rebels only three weeks later. Tip Carrington particularly enjoyed himself. When he was released early due to his migraines, he returned home, only to leave again after hearing his wife and daughters arguing as he stood at the front door.

In December 1958, the American gathered for a good-bye dance at the Pan-American Club. It was time for them to evacuate before the rebels arrived. To their shock, the club was rocked by a bomb. The rebels had advanced, and Batista was strafing the town indiscriminately. They took refuge in the mines until the Navy arrived and evacuated them by ship to Guantanamo. Despite the bombing, the rebels continued advancing until they reached Havana. After hearing rumors that she was dead, La Maziere went straight to Rachel K’s apartment. She was alive, and realizing the depth of his feelings, La Maziere proposed she travel the world with him. She refused, telling him her place was in Cuba.

It is 2004 in Tampa. K.C. looks through boxes of relics from his family’s time in Cuba. He longs to visit, but cannot bring himself to replace his old memories of Preston with new ones. Everly, however, does return. She meets Willy and other old friends, marveling at how the red nickel dust and sea are still the same after so many years.

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