Celia Cantú, a pediatrician in Havana, is trying to live a regular life in today's Cuba. She is engaged to her childhood friend Luis and lives with her 16-year-old niece, Liliana. Celia's life is disrupted when Luis's brother, Joe, returns from Miami flaunting his American ways. Joe's arrival and Liliana's adolescent restlessness force Celia to examine the discrepancy between her country's revolutionary ideals and its reality.
As this family drama unfolds, Celia is unnerved by moments when her mind and body seem to be taken over by Celia Sánchez, a heroine of the Revolution and long-time intimate of Fidel Castro. The turbulent past and an undefined future collide when Liliana disappears and Celia sets out into the Cuban countryside in search of her.
The Woman She Was is a deeply moving novel that explores the aspirations, hopes, and fears of contemporary Cubans, as well as the challenges they still face.