Review: Next Year in Havana (Blog Tour)

Next Year in Havana.jpgAfter the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity–and unearths a familysecret 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.

February 6, 2018
Women’s Fiction/Historical Fiction
Penguin/Berkley

AbtrennungStarting this book, I didn’t know much about the history of Cuba or even its culture. Chanel Cleeton makes sure that you are going to pick up so many pieces of Cuba along the way of reading the book. Alternating between Marisol’s POV — the present — as well as Elisa‘s POV, as a reader, you are instantly drawn into two worlds. One, the one of Marisol, seems to be carefree and somewhat melancholic. As a member of the Perez family, she never had much to worry about; it isn’t until her grandmother’s death however that she is catapulted back into her family’s history. Traveling back to Cuba, a place she only knows from stories, she can finally see the country of her dreams for herself — only  to realize that there are so many layers of Cuba.
Something that really surprised me was the author’s realistic approach to the situation in present Cuba, as well as the political undertone to the book. Chanel Cleeton draws a perfect picture of the many facets of Cuba, vividly painting its lush, lively culture and twisted history, and she sure did an amazing job in making the setting as authentic as possible.

Through the eyes of Marisol, we learn that things we take for granted such as freedom of speech and the freedom to travel, or even just hot water are suddenly turned into banalities by the government. The author doesn’t hold back to describe the country’s tumultuous past and presence, but she doesn’t hold back to describe its beauty and opulent history either. Instead of downgrading and straight-out condemning the changes in the country since the Revolution, she sheds light on the different sides to the political situation in Cuba. Quite from what I expected from the story, the reader will eventually understand that for some people the changes have indeed been overdue; for the most part however the Revolution has been horrific, tearing friends and families apart.

Along her way, Marisol meets many new people, with everyone adding his own story to the thick storyline. Although only side characters, everyone has an important story to tell which makes the book even more interesting. By the end of the book it doesn’t feel as if you have read a story about two characters only; it feels more like a love song to Cuba put together by many different people, a sad, melancholic but hopeful song.

Needless to say, the second plotline with Elisa was almost too heartbreaking to read. Set against the backdrop of the Cuban Revolution, Cleeton plays a lot with foreshadowing. Passionate, tragic and hopeful, it is as if the relationship between Elisa and her lover is mirroring Cuba’s situation itself. It all makes Next Year in Havana an extraordinary, outstanding and poetic book.

Next Year in Havana is a homage to the Cuban people and the Cuban history, a celebration to everybody who ever had to leave his country. It’s a story about resilience, family bonds and hope for a better life. Something that you will understand by the end of the book is probably the soul of the Cuban people — being proud of your heritage and never ever bowing down, no matter what circumstances.

The author did an amazing job interweaving the two storylines together, even giving little hints on what the future might hold for Cuba. With her strong and at times almost lyrical writing, you will not fall for only one but with both storylines. It’s a beautifully written book and definitely worth all the stars.

AboutTheAuthor

Originally from Florida, Chanel Cleeton 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. She loves to travel and has lived in the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.

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Grab the book at

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Learn more about Next Year in Havana including downloading the book club guide and more at: http://www.chanelcleeton.com/next-year-in-havana/

Add Beatriz Perez’s story WHEN WE LEFT CUBA on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38193131-when-we-left-cuba

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