Review of Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

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.

Available on Amazon.

My friend Shalini, talks about how some books and the review you’d want to write about them get locked in your heart and won’t come out. I think that’s how I felt about this book. I read it since May last year and just haven’t been able to write the review yet. I’m still not sure I can really write the review I want to but it’s now Jan 2019 and I want to review everything I read last year!! 

Now I don’t know if it’s the next greatest book ever written about Cuba but it really touched me on a personal level. Also, I’ve read many reviews or thoughts on this book written by those of Cuban descent, and there seems to be quite a lot of gratitude to the author for being able to write a fictional story that encompasses their feelings about the land of their ancestors. 

For me, Cuba is a country I have studied for many years, and its history is one I teach across several courses. Twice now I’ve tried to arrange a trip to this island that’s never far from my mind but have yet to actually make it. Of course, its history and current affairs are hotly debated topics and for that reason I tend to be weary of reading fiction books set around the 1959 Castro revolution. Inevitably those stories tend to overly politicize one side or the other. 

But this story, to me, does not try to be a political soapbox. Instead, the author simply speaks from the heart about two related yet separate Cuban women. One was forced to flee and leave her heart behind when the revolution arrived; and the other, her granddaughter, tries to find her identity as a person who has been taught to love a land she has never seen.

This story brings almost every stereotype that has been uttered to the fore. It challenges the reader to think about love for people and love for country and how that love can be expressed so differently by different people. This story also made me think about how I teach my own history modules on this country. I even adjusted it a little to accommodate for some new perspectives I gleaned. 

I added the audiobook to my kindle version and listened and read. I was totally immersed in this tale. I spent about two weeks working my way through the audio and then I spent a few months turning over the narrative in my mind. 

In terms of the audio, the two narrators who tell the stories of Marisol and Elisa (Kyla Garcia and Frankie Maria Corzo) both did excellent jobs and their accents helped to bring the story to life even more. The quality of the production was good and I don’t remember having any issues at all with it.

The dual timeline format works perfectly in this novel. I’m always apprehensive when starting a book that uses that technique but there were no issues here. The intermixed perspectives naturally follow and each bit helps push the story forward. 

Now, as a teacher I can’t endorse reading historical fiction, solely, to give you the details of a particular historical event. However, I think the author covers several key events very well and it’s a good intro to the major issues. It’s only the perspectives of some that are presented and I would have liked if maybe a couple secondary characters could have contributed other perspectives. But overall, I think the author did an excellent job. I would recommend the book to my students but only after we’ve covered the topic from a more academic perspective!

I give this story 5/5 Cuban espresso shots. 

29 thoughts on “Review of Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Add yours

  1. Awww… I got a shout out… Yayy thank you cozy babe
    And friend Shalini… Nah nah.. I am your darling, the heartbeat after your family, the one for whom you think about gifts almost constantly… 😂 😂 😂 😂 😂 😂 😂 😂 😂 😂 😂 😂

    On a not so funny note, thank you cozy babe, I agree some books are difficult to review because we feel so much while reading it that we cannot put those emotions into words.
    I feel the same about you. Every time I sit down to write my ode to you, I have tears falling down but no words

    Liked by 1 person

  2. And let me tell you I have great words for books I have read and not reviewed on blog – meh, boring, slow, wtf, what were you thinking, what was I reading, why me, change your line, don’t ever write

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Beautiful review, Nina! I have this one coming up soon to read along with the sequel, and I’m worried it will be difficult for me to write about too! I appreciated your personal perspective and I hope one day you can travel there. I’d like to also!

    Liked by 1 person

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