Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity–and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution…

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-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 embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary…

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa’s last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth. 

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.

Book Overview:

Author: Chanel Cleeton | Series: None (although sequel came out recently, no official name for series | Format: Audiobook | Narrated by: Kyla Garcia & Frankie Maria Corzo | Length: 11 hours and 16 minutes | Publish Date: February 6, 2018 | Genre: Historical Fiction & Romance | Literary Awards: Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Historical Fiction (2018) | Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ | Recommend: Heck Yes!

“Life is too short to be unhappy, to play it safe. To do what is expected of you rather than follow your heart”

I don’t know what took me so long to review this book since I couldn’t stop talking about it while I was listening to it. I even told my mom about it and recommended it to her. Then someone told me that she wrote a sequel to this book from Beatriz’s perspective and I flipped out. I absolutely fell in love with this book, and both Elisa and Marisol while they told their stories about Cuba, and what happened to them while they were there.

One of my favorite things about this book was that it seamlessly transferred us back and forth between Elisa’s Cuba and Marisol’s Cuba. While it may seem like the years between the two don’t always have a big affect on how a country changes, it was important to note that the Cuba that Marisol grew up learning about was completely different from the Cuba that she actually went to see, and even more different from the Cuba that Elisa and the entire Perez family lived and left back when Fidel Castro took control. I felt for Elisa so much dealing with the revolution and the war, being in the heart of it and being personally affected by it due to her family’s status. All of the Perez family felt it, and suffered in some shape or form for being associated with the corrupt ruler of Cuba – not Fidel but someone just as bad. Elisa was only nineteen years old when this was going on, part of a wealthy Cuban family that was sheltered from what was really going on. She had to grow up extremely fast, and leaving her country behind was probably the beginning of her new journey in life.

Marisol on the other hand is going to Cuba for the first time, with the intent of finding the perfect spot for her Grandmother Elisa to rest in peace. Unfortunately, Elisa (the one and the same) never did get to go back to Cuba like they promised, so spreading her ashes in her home will have to honor her dream. From there, Marisol is learning that the Cuba that she learned about growing up is not the same, and despite the death of Fidel Castro and the political unrest not nearly the same as it was during her grandmother’s time, it is still dangerous for a Cuban-American girl to start asking questions. Especially if they find out which family she came from. Can she survive knowing that this isn’t what she was expecting? Can she make it out of Cuba alive?

Elisa and Marisol are both strong women, so proud of their Cuban heritage and not afraid of showing it. They also know who they are, who they want to be, and even if their lives didn’t always follow in the path of their family’s images of them, they stood up for themselves in some aspect. I loved hearing about how Elisa would tell Marisol about Cuba, and I loved how Marisol knew about certain places in Cuba that Elisa loved to see when she lived there, like the Malecon. I felt love for both of them, and I felt like both of their stories were just wonderful.

I keep saying that I don’t usually read historical fiction adult books, and yet here’s another one that ended up reading and loving. I may end up buying this book so I can go back and revisit Cuba from Elisa’s and Marisol’s eyes. I can’t wait to see what Beatriz was up to during the Cuban Revolution, as I feel like she was one character that didn’t get enough “screen time”. To have a whole novel dedicated to her is a dream come true. I highly recommend this book, even if you think historical fiction isn’t your thing. You may be surprised at what you find.

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