Mariella is used to being hungry. After her fisherman father died, she was left to attempt to pick up the pieces of her family -- keeping her younger sisters fed and convincing her mother to actually get out of bed each day. She works hard doing odd jobs around the dock, but dreams of being on the water, just as her father was, making a name for herself in the fishing world of Key West.
When she meets Ernest Hemingway, the man everyone down at the docks calls "Papa," Mariella's life changes. He hires her as a housekeeper in his home and though she doesn't exactly understand why he has an instant pull over her, she accepts the job, eager to have steady work to help her family.
Papa is not only a reckless flirt, he is also married to an incredibly jealous woman and still, Mariella doesn't trust herself around him. He's charming, strong, and in need of someone to save him. And that's what Mariella does for everyone -- she saves. Then she meets Gavin. A WWI vet with a huge heart, Gavin is everything Mariella is looking for in a potential mate, yet she can't seem to pull herself away from Papa. Not good.
Mariella was such a strong character and a great lead to really pull me into the book. I felt connected to her from the very first page and I loved how she made Key West come alive. She WAS what Key West is really all about. This may be historical fiction, but the descriptions of the characters, especially Papa and Mariella, made it incredibly absorbing, and really brought the past into the present.
While reading the story, I almost forgot, at times, that Hemingway was an actual person! Robuck managed to mold his character in the story so well, that I had to remind myself that she was writing about a person who once was alive, in the flesh. I was fascinated by his life and will definitely be picking up my first Hemingway novel after being brought into his world through this book. I really enjoyed it!
And as a quick side note, having never read a book by Ernest Hemingway or really knowing anything about him, I was astounded by how much he reminded me of my own Dad (minus the womanizing!). My father died by when I quite young, but from what I remember and what I've been told, he was in love with the Florida Keys, was happiest on a boat fishing for the day's meal, and had a fighting personality. He even resembles Hemingway in the photos I've seen. Weird and fascinating all at once.
SO excited I get to meet the author at one of my favorite indie bookstores tonight!