One of the most renowned American writers of “Lost Generation,” Ernest Hemingway holds a certain place in American mythology. While not quite so distinguished as the Abraham Lincolns or the Rosa Parkses, Hemingway has been making a splash in recent fiction and non-fiction works–from a cameo in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris (2011) to Paula Mclain’s The Paris Wife (currently the number one best-seller in biographical fiction on amazon.com).
Erika Robuck, however, takes her readers away from the glitz and the glamour of jazz-age Paris, in which other recent works have been set, opting instead for the gritty realism of depression-era Key West. A work of fiction, Robuck centers her narrative on the life of Mariella Bennet, a working class girl of mixed racial heritage who becomes a maid in the Hemingway’s house to help feed her family after her father’s untimely demise. The arch of the tale follows the unlikely friendship which develops between Hemingway and Mariella, and the drama which ensues as a result.
Robuck is clearly influenced by her literary hero. Written with the economical prose and concise sentences Hemingway used in his own works, Robuck nonetheless conveys an impressive amount of depth in her writing. She also favors Hemingway’s emphasis on the interactions of characters from divergent social backgrounds, the relationship between man and nature, love and loss, and the impact of war on society.
Robuck brings to life the culture of Depression-era Key West with surprising clarity of vision, using several historical documents and research as a basis for her work. For those who have seen present-day Key West, it is interesting to draw parallels. I am personally excited that I will soon be going to Key West to see Hemingway’s house, now a museum.
What makes Hemingway’s Girl truly compelling, however, is the way in which Robuck’s lifelike characters interact with one another. Will Mariella become another one of Hemingway’s mistresses or wives, or will she remain his friend? Robuck keeps you guessing until the very last page.
Want to know more about Erika Robuck and Hemingway’s Key West? Check out these links:
Erika Robuck’s Website: http://erikarobuck.wordpress.com/
A Except of an Interview with Robuck: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDWExdgNlpA
A Video Tour of Hemingway’s Key West Home: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTcaY6UA_yU&feature=relmfu