Published by Berkley Publishing on February 6, 2018
Source: the publisher
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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.
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Next Year In Havana by Chanel Cleeton is one of the historical fiction releases I’ve been most excited about, and not only because of the stunning cover. I knew from following the author in various places online that this story is a labor of love for her because it is based at least in part on her own family’s exile from Cuba in 1967 (you can read more about it on Chanel’s website). I could 100% tell that the author was extra-invested in making sure this story was perfect, because it was so well-done and I felt so many things while I read.
I love the Perez family – in particular, the Perez sisters. Right away, in the beginning, I felt for them because of their forced exit from their home. They very clearly don’t understand the depth of this exile. They don’t know whether this exile will be temporary or permanent, and they are having to leave nearly everything that they have behind. Even though they relocate and establish themselves in America, they are profoundly affected by this. I love the interactions of the sisters and their personalities. In particular, Beatriz is really something. (I’m very excited to see that more of her story will be published in 2019 in When We Left Cuba.)
I also love Marisol. I could immediately relate to her because she opens her story grieving the recent loss of her grandmother. Marisol’s grandmother Elisa Perez practically raised her. Marisol lived with her and learned the good things in life from her. Elisa made sure to talk to Marisol about Cuba all the time; she told her stories about the places and people from her home and she cooked her the traditional foods. Marisol considers herself Cuban. Elisa’s wish was that after she died, she wanted Marisol to return her ashes to Cuba.
The story is told in two POV’s – Elisa and Marisol – and I loved them both. I think I may have liked Marisol’s a little bit more, but that’s probably because I felt a little bit more connected with her because of how much she loved her grandmother and because she was grieving her loss, and I find myself in that same situation (several years after I’ve lost my grandmother, who I also lived with). I loved Elisa’s POV for different reasons: she taught me so much about the Cuban culture and the history of this time period, neither of which I know much about.
A couple of things:
- I feel like this story made it easy for me to visualize the difference in financial status in 1950’s-Cuba and present-day-Cuba. The Perez family was a wealthy family in Havana when the book opens in the 1950’s because they own a very successful sugar business. The author paints the picture of how the city changes over time through Marisol’s visit to Cuba; her remarks and inner thoughts suggest that she can tell that the city and homes and cars used to be well-kept, but that the city and its people have been unable to make repairs and updates as needed because everyone’s financial situations are just not what they used to be.
- This isn’t strictly a romance book – this is a story of exile and the heartbreak that goes along with leaving everything behind, and then a return of sorts. The romances that do occur happen under unusual circumstances and are strained from the beginning. They are passionate in that every emotion is real and valid and it seems like the added stresses of each respective situation makes the romance a little more. But there is some heartache involved (from a reading perspective) in knowing what these relationships must endure if they are to make it, and wondering if that is even a possibility.
I loved so much about this book, but for me the best and biggest part is the connection that Marisol had with her grandmother Elisa. Marisol’s grief felt like a living thing to me and was not a downer in the story, but it resonated with me so deeply that it made me cry in more than one instance. Every single thing about Marisol’s thought process and the way that she felt about her grandmother made me FEEL THINGS. Like, a lot.
I loved this one. So much. I loved the culture and the history, and I loved the Perez family. I can’t wait to hear more from Beatriz in her book. I loved the time spent with Elisa and Marisol. I loved the opportunity to quietly and privately relive my own feelings about my grandmother thru Marisol – that was so unexpected and just so wonderful.
Every now and then, a book comes along that I feel like I’m probably going to like, but is so unexpected, and Next Year In Havana was absolutely one of them.
Coming Soon: When We Left Cuba, which is Beatriz Perez’s story!
ADD WHEN WE LEFT CUBA TO GOODREADS