By People Staff
Updated March 08, 1999 12:00 PM

By Oscar Hijuelos

Book of the week

Oscar Hijuelos rose to prominence with 1989’s triumphant The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, about Cuban brothers who gig their way to fame in the Latin pop world. This time his aristocratic character is no mambo star—she’s Lydia España, a wife and mother who cleans the homes of affluent New Yorkers and leads what Hijuelos calls “the kind of life nobody really notices.” Clinging proudly to memories of her privileged childhood in Cuba, Lydia often escapes to a fantasy world of sudden wealth and regained youth. In real time, she is becoming a first-class crank and taskmaster to her children. But as Hijuelos pointedly (and sometimes distractingly) illustrates, rich people can also be emotionally impoverished. True beauty, he lovingly suggests, lies in the small moments of a “decent, genteel, low-key” life. (HarperFlamingo, $25)

Bottom Line: Simply splendid