This is a novel about the experience of exile. The experiences of the characters differ quite a bit from one another. Within the framework of the opening scene, the text shows that it is not only the person who chooses exile that has to deal with the implications of displacement and physical absence ( Lourdes for instance who left Cuba for New York), but also the one who is left behind. We meet Celia, the matriarch, in the opening and closing scene of the novel. In both instances she is portrayed as the one left behind. She is a character who sustains herself through her memories; memories of her husband whose presence she almost invokes while she watches the sea in the beginning of the narrative and memories of Gustavo, her lost love. While the opening finds her longing or thinking about Pilar, the work ends with Celia's letter to Gustavo in which she tells him that Pilar "will remember". History and memory are linked in this text, and with Pilar's visit to Cuba she has become the one carries the collective family memory of exile for the women. She is perhaps the ideal character for this task, since she is one generation removed from the revolution. She has a sort of sentimentality for Cuba that is shared by her grandmother. This sentiment makes her the ideal bearer of history and memory; but more, she carries the memory out of Cuba.
If you want to move into the larger realm of politics, the opening and closing scenes have another significance as well. Since the US is virtually cut off from Cuba (we have practically severed diplomatic ties long ago), the reader is offered a chance to see how Cubans themselves struggle with their political isolation, their history, and their torn family structures. The opening scene has a tone of longing for those people in Celia's family who have been displaced by Cuban politics. Celia in particular is nurtured by memories and her search for wholeness in some way. In the end we see come full circle because she has managed to keep history alive even though nothing has changed politically in Cuba.