Title: Next Year in Havana
Series: The Cuba Saga
By: Chanel Cleeton
ISBN: 0399586687 (ISBN13: 9780399586682)
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Andra
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. (Goodreads)
Next Year in Havana is a thought provoking story set in a dual timeline which, finally in the second half, grabbed my attention and made it very difficult to put the book down. This first book in The Cuba Saga series by Chanel Cleeton paints the picture of life in Cuba in the 50’s as well as in present day while following the life of Marisol Ferrera.
Marisol Ferrera is a Cuban-American writer whose wealthy family escaped to Miami just after the rise of Fidel Castro. Upon the death of her grandmother, Elisa Perez, Marisol returns her grandmother’s ashes to Cuba, as Elisa’s dying wish is to be scattered in the land she loved. The journey to find where Marisol should scatter the ashes is an enjoyable and at times difficult journey.
The title of the book is imbedded in a quote in the book, where Marisol is talking about her Cuban heritage with Luis and what she says on New Years eve about her families hopes of being able to return to their homeland…It was very poignant and the essence of the book (at least for this reader).
” You’ve all moved on. There’s a modern Cuba now with a rich history, and emerging cultures, and experiences. And I’m not part of that. None of my family are. We left, and we haven’t been able to return, and we’re stuck in stasis in the United States. Always waiting for a headline on the news that Fidel had died, that the government has admitted this was a terrible mistake, that things will go back to the way they were. As exiles, that hope is embedded in the very essence of our soul, taught from birth–
Next Year in Havana–
It’s the toast we never stop saying, because the dream of it never comes true. And if it does one day, what then? There are Russians in the home my ancestors built. What will we return to? Is it even our country anymore, or did we give it up when we left? I’m trying to understand where I fit in all of this.”
The journey that Marisol is on is one of discovery – both of her grandmother’s life in Cuba and one of her heritage as a Cuban. As Marisol learns more about Elise’s life while in Cuba, one can’t help but be drawn in by Marisol’s growth as she discovers many secrets that Elise carried with her for her entire life. Throughout the story-telling, I was reacquainted with much of Cuban history that had slipped my mind which fascinated me.
I found the dual time line easy enough to follow, though at times I found that Marisol and her story were definitely in the background. It certainly did not carry the depth that Elise’s story did. And boy, was Elise’s story engaging with surprises that I had not anticipated.
Having been to Cuba a couple of times over the past three years (and one trip we stayed in the heart of Havana) reading Next Year in Havana was like returning to a place I treasured. Where the historical and cultural depth of the country is intriguing. I found the storytelling compelling and true to life (as much as historical fiction does take some poetic license).
If you are a fan of historical fiction, and enjoy dual timelines, then I suggest giving this debut novel by Chanel Cleeton a chance – you won’t be disappointed. After all – it was a book of the month for Reese Witherspoon’s bookclub. And who doesn’t like a romance (or two) in the book they are reading?