The Soviet Circus Comes To Havana

by Virgil Suarez


Virgil Suárez’s latest short story collection—his first in more than two decades—is subversive and emotionally piercing. A man whose yard is plagued by armadillos, a pair of boys who torment scorpions with gasoline fires, and a father’s best friend wasting away with an illness as a son watches the deterioration with fascination and disgust—these are just a few of the characters in these seventeen stories that reveal a dark, satiric view of the human condition that’s somehow ferocious and, at times, funny. Shades of Denis Johnson and George Saunders run throughout this potent volume of new stories. Whether he’s writing about Havana, Miami, or other less exotic locales, Suárez has the ironic distance of an outsider while capturing the details only insiders know. The Soviet Circus Comes to Havana and Other Stories is an apt addition to the world of short fiction.

“This wonder-filled collection of storiesshows Virgil Suárez joining the ranks of multi-talented writers like Oates and Updike who can produce top work in novels, poems, and short fiction. The Soviet Circus stories continually surprise, whether they stem from his boyhood in Cuba or roll knowingly through America, from the West coast to Florida, filled with the tragedies and comedies of unforgettable characters.”
—Peter Meinke, author of The Piano Tuner

“Virgil Suárez is one of the few writers out there who can do it all—fiction, nonfiction, poetry. In The Soviet Circus Comes to Havana and Other Stories, we are in the presence of a confident writer at the height of his powers. The subtle strands that interweave these stories give this collection the satisfying completeness of a novel. Of the many, many things I admire about Suárez’s stories, perhaps foremost is his sublime balance of passion and restraint. He knows when to hit us hard, and he knows when to pull back and let his rich, sensory descriptions do their work. ‘I felt it right there,’ one of his characters says. Right there—on the body, in the body. The physicality of these stories brings these characters and their worlds to life, whether they’re in Los Angeles, Cuba, or Miami. We are always there with them, fighting off demons real and imagined. Such heart, such warmth. Such soul.”
—Jim Daniels, author of Trigger Man

“In The Soviet Circus Comes to Havana, Virgil Suárez paints a vivid picture of the beauty and terror of revolutionary Cuba and exile from that “solitary island floating away into a blue expanse.” These elegantly crafted coming-of-age stories richly illustrate that the first losses of life are among the hardest to bear.”
—Rita Ciresi, author of Pink Slip and Sometimes I Dream in Italian

“I have been a Virgil Suárez fan for years now, and this new collection makes this fanboy’s heart flutter. In The Soviet Circus Comes to Havana, Suárez paints huge, sprawling, lively vistas of life in Havana and expatriate Los Angeles on the miniature canvas of the short story. His stories stretch the frame, overflowing with life, love, comedy, tragedy, and his trademark capacity for burrowing into the human heart. In the hands of a more parsimonious author, any one of the stories in this collection would turn into two or three separate stories, but Virgil Suárez is a generous writer with a wealth of experience to share with us and the uncanny ability to tell it all seamlessly true.”
—Pat Rushin, author of Puzzling Through the News