REVIEW: CHANEL CLEETON ✭ NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA

REVIEW: CHANEL CLEETON ✭ NEXT YEAR IN HAVANANext Year In Havana by Chanel Cleeton
Published by Berkley on February 6th 2018
Genres: Fiction
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five-stars

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.

Next Year in Havana

by Chanel Cleeton

My heart is full. Full with love for the characters of this book. With shame about my ignorance of the danger and problems Cuban people still face on a daily basis. Admiration for their bravery and pride. Affection for their good hearts. Sadness for their heartbreak. I struggle to get a grip on my emotions as I sit here and write my review.

How long will we be gone? When will we return? Which version of Cuba will greet us when we do?

Marisol’s exiled grandmother’s last wish was for her remains to return to the home of her heart, Cuba, one of the priceless gems in the Caribbean Sea. Marisol only knows her country from stories her grandmother Elisa told her, who raised her and who she was closest to. Arriving in Cuba she traces back Elisa’s life. At her side is Elisa’s best friend Ana’s grandson Luis. Together they uncover secrets only a few people apart from Elisa knew about.

Two timelines follow alternating Elisa and Pablo as well as Marisol and Luis. There are parallels between Elisa’s love for Pablo and Marisol’s for Luis. Both of them love highly educated men, who have a deep love for their country. Patriotism isn’t just a word for them, they live it, breathe it…die for it. And both of these men possess a quiet strength, an earnestness and intensity that draws both Elisa and Marisol in.

It isn’t surprising that Marisol and Elisa fall in love with men who have so similar character traits. Marisol and Elisa share the same kindness, brave heart, curiosity and love for their country. When Elisa’s secret start to surface it throws Marisol a little bit for a loop. Doubts about her knowledge of the woman who raised her arise, make her question if she knew her grandmother at all. Slowly she also realizes how romanticized her image of Cuba is.

I am Cuban, and yet, I am not. I don’t know where I fit here, in the land of my grandparents, attempting to recreate a Cuba that no longer exists in reality.

Luis and Marisol’s instant attraction becomes complicated fast, their connection turns quickly into deep feelings. But how can they be together when neither of them fits into the world of the other? This stalemate situation makes you understand, however, that as divergent Luis and Marisol are, they also have a lot in common. It’s exactly the same situation Marisol’s grandmother and Pablo found themselves in, when they fell in love.

“In this moment, I want you. But after that—”
“Then maybe we just have this moment.”
“Is that enough?”
He smiles, a tinge of sadness on his face. “I have a feeling there will never be enough moments with you, Marisol.”

As we follow Marisol and Elisa we learn about the Cuba pre-revolution and the Cuba of today. Chanel Cleeton draws the country in brilliant and rich colors and makes you want to get on a plane and visit, to see it with your own eyes. I adored all the main characters and Luis’ grandmother Ana. There is a warmth, a gentleness to all of them despite the harshness they experience.

Cuba is the fifth star in this story and she is as beautiful as she is terrifying. The author weaves her immense and profound knowledge of the country into the story and fascinates us with historical details. I suspect she also poured a lot of herself into Marisol and Elisa.

There is no home for us in a world where we can’t speak our minds for fear of being thrown in prison, where daring to dream is a criminal act, where you aren’t limited by your own ability and ambition, but instead by the whims of those who keep a tight rein on power.

This story is powerful and extraordinary. It’s a history class with a handsome professor who has the ability to captivate and enchant you with spellbinding, informative and lovely narration about the people, politics and history of a beautiful country. Yes, there is a lot of historical details in the beginning and while this makes for a slower reading in the first 30 to 40% it is absolutely essential to understand the bigger picture. I loved learning about the Cuban revolution from somebody with such intimate knowledge about it.

But do not fear, the story picks up at around 40% and then it reaches that level of unputdownable that I experience with all Chanel Cleeton books. I love all her stories but this time she has outdone herself.
Heads up – this is not romance. I think it qualifies more as fiction with romantic elements. But don’t let that keep you from reading it, it packs a good amount of romance and love.
This is the book I never knew was missing from my life. It has made me richer and given me an insight into the dangers Cuban people are still dealing with. I can’t stress how important this story is, how fascinating, emotional, wonderful and educating. I have a new understanding of the history and I hope one day Cuban people will be free and rid of the regime so that their inherent exuberance and vibrancy can shine again with full power.

We carry our home with us in our hearts, laden with hope. So much hope.

Next year in Havana. Ojalá.
five-stars

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2 Comments

    • Thank you! I think you can’t go wrong with this one, babe. It’s one of those books that won’t leave you unaffected. The vast amount of historical information might be for some a little overwhelming at first but it’s so worth it.

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