Today, in the Next Year in Havana review, we travel from 2017 Miami, Fl. back to 1958 Havana, Cuba. We linger over a beautiful yet heartbreaking story taking place during the Cuban revolution and aftermath decades later. Being a historical fiction romance, Next Year in Havana is a story filled with family secrets unraveled and revealed, page turning twists and turns, and of course, forbidden romance.
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We are taken back to Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, 19-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba's high society where she is largely sheltered from the country's growing political unrest--until she comes to love a revolutionary.
Then brought to more modern times in Miami, 2017. Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa. Elisa's last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in Cuba.
Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba's tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she'll need the lessons of her grandmother's past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.
"I was caught between two lands - two iterations of myself - the one I inhabited in my body and the one I lived in my dreams."Chanel Cleeton, Next Year In Havana
Next Year in Havana, written by Chanel Cleeton, includes two first-person narrators. The first narrator is 19-year-old Elisa Perez, Havana, Cuba 1958. Elisa is a member of high society and resides in the wealthiest area of Cuba. Sheltered and mostly unaware of the everyday struggles of working Cuban citizens, she spends her time shopping, dining and attending parties.
The second first-person narrator is freelance writer Marisol Ferrera, Miami, Florida 2017. Marisol is Elisa's granddaughter and grew up listening to wonderful stories of Cuba from Elisa's childhood. Upon Elisa's passing, it was her wish for Marisol to take her ashes and spread them in a special place in Cuba.
Marisol arrives to Cuba, eager to explore the land she's heard so many stories of throughout her life. She had an idea in her mind of what to expect. But upon arrival she quickly realizes the harsh new reality of what the Cuban people must endure on a daily basis. The tropical island paused in the 1950s, still carries much beauty to this day, but it is not the same Cuba she once envisioned and fell in love with.
While boarding with her grandmother's childhood best friend, Marisol realizes the stark differences in the quality of life between her family that fled to American and of the families who remained in Cuba during the revolution. Her family thrived and was able to rebuild their sugar business while the families remaining in Cuba descended to mere poverty. Opening Marisol's eyes to the political injustices and oppression that have stolen the livelihood of so many.
Writing Style & Tone
Chanel Cleeton has a wonderful, poetic writing style. The story is easy to follow and lingers in just the right moments to develop passion and anticipation. There were many lines throughout the story that made me stop and think what a beautiful quote.
Considering the topic, the tone and feel of the story is mostly somber. The Cuban revolution was a stressful and ugly time full of uncertainty, anxiety and death. This was demonstrated throughout the pages in the story, even in moments of budding romance.
I enjoy Next Year in Havana via audible during my daily commute. The story was narrated by Kyla Garcia. She did a wonderful job of capturing the ever evolving emotions of the story. I thoroughly enjoyed ingesting this story as audible read.
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Likes & Dislikes
For the most part I really enjoyed this story. I adored the grandmother and granddaughter connection and bond as well as the dual timelines. What I didn't like were some resolutions that were quite unrealistic. If it weren't for money and power (something most Cuban families do not have) then the story would have ended much differently. In a sense I felt as if the ending had a bow tie placed on it instead of the alternative.
Recommendation & Rating
I would consider this story an entry-level read to the Cuban revolution. For myself, this was the second novel I've read set in Cuba during the Cuban revolution. However, I still learned quite a bit about the Cuban culture and Cuban revolution without becoming overwhelmed with dates, important figures and terminology. I would recommend Next Year in Havana to those interested in Cuban history and the Cuban revolution.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars!
About the Author:
Originally from Florida, Chanel grew up on stories of her family's exodus from Cuba following the events of the Cuban Revolution. Her passion for politics and history continued during her years spent studying in England where she earned a bachelor's degree in International Relations from Richmond, The American International University in London and a master's degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics & Political Science. Chanel also received her Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law.
Chanel Cleeton is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick Next Year in Havana, When We Left Cuba, The Last Train to Key West, and The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba.
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