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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.
Well, this book just about destroyed me, folks. I wasn’t sure if Next Year in Havana would be my kind of book, but when a friend recommended it, I had to see what all the fuss was about. It’s safe to say, this friend definitely has incredible tastes, and I’m so grateful that she got me to pick this book up because it’s one that will stay with me forever and also one I will eagerly revisit in the future.
Next Year in Havana is told in two POVs that cover two different timelines. The first timeline tells the story of Elisa in 1958 Havana, Cuba, and the second timeline follows Elisa’s granddaughter, Marisol, as she travels back to Havana to scatter her grandmother’s ashes. I’m always wary of books that tackle dual timelines, but I had nothing to worry about here because Chanel Cleeton weaves the two of them beautifully. I think why it worked brilliantly here for me was because of the equal attention she gives the two characters. I had no favorites when it came to the characters. I found both to be equally powerful, and equally enticing. Elisa’s story is perhaps more heartbreaking, and more infused in danger, given the political climate of Cuba during her years of growth. I loved Elisa’s story. It’s just full of emotions and it’s so poignant. She grows up part of the Cuban high society and has had more of a sheltered life than others in Cuba. She meets a charming older man at a party and falls passionately and hopelessly in love with him. Only thing in their way? He’s a revolutionary secretly working with Fidel Castro to upend the government. I fell hard for these two characters, and it was tough at times watching the two of them go through what they had to. Cleeton does a beautiful job at highlighting the despair in Cuba but also the hope that exists between them. I swear there were times I was full-on sobbing, curled up in a fetal position – yeah, it’s THAT kind of book.
Marisol’s story is equally compelling. She grew up very close to her grandmother and thought she knew everything possible about Elisa, but upon arriving in Cuba, her life turns upside down when makes new revelations. As she travels through Havana in attempt to find the perfect place to scatter her grandmother’s ashes and meets people her grandmother knew in her younger days along the way, she not only discovers more about the hopes, dreams and sorrow that her grandma faced, but also discovers more about her own self. Marisol also finds romance in the arms of a swoony history professor, grandson of Elisa’s best friend, who also happens to have his share of secrets. The romance here is subtle, but it’s not lacking of really sweet and emotional scenes as the two get to know each other.
Besides the amazing characters, Next Year in Havana is full of rich history and culture. I knew the basics of the Cuban revolution, but this book taught quite a few things. I was horrified and fascinated, and I just felt all the emotions. I have to applaud Cleeton’s writing abilities here. She made the atmosphere come alive in both timelines with her flawless prose. I was there along with Elisa and Marisol as they navigated Havana. There are also some fascinating secondary characters here, who seemed to have their own share of stories. Of particular interest to me was Elisa’s rebellious sister, Beatriz. I’ve been told she’s getting a book of her own, so I’m really excited.
I really hope you guys consider reading Next Year in Havana. It’s such a poignant and vivid historical fiction, with absolutely luscious writing, and it’s a book I know will stay with me for the longest time. Read it, and fall in love with these two characters as I did.