It's 1949 and two young Cuban musicians make their way up from Havana to the big arena of New York, where they are workers by day, stars of dance halls by night. Hijuelos's marvelous portrait of the Castillo brothers, their families, their fellow musicians and lovers, their triumphs and tragedies, re-creates the sights and sounds of an era in music and an unsung moment in American life.
Inspired by their heroes Xavier Cugat and Desi Arnaz, brothers Cesar and Nestor Castillo come to New York City from Cuba in 1949 with designs on becoming mambo stars. Eventually they do--performing with Arnaz on "I Love Lucy" in 1955 and recording 78s with their own band, the Mambo Kings. In his second novel, Hijuelos traces the lives of the flashy, guitar-strumming Cesar and the timid, lovelorn Nestor as they cruise the East Coast club circuit in a flamingo-pink bus. Enriching the story are the brothers' friends and family members--all driven by their own private dreams. The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love won a Pulitzer Prize in 1990.