THE JULY PICK FOR REESE WITHERSPOON'S HELLO SUNSHINE BOOK CLUB
"A beautiful novel that's full of forbidden passions, family secrets and a lot of courage and sacrifice."--Reese Witherspoon
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.
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Read an Excerpt
How long will we be gone?" my sister Maria asks.
"Awhile," I answer.
"Two months? Six months? A year? Two?"
"Quiet." I nudge her forward, my gaze darting around the departure area of Rancho-Boyeros Airport to see if anyone has overheard her question.
We stand in a row, the famous-or infamous, depending on who you ask-Perez sisters. Isabel leads the way, the eldest of the group. She doesn't speak, her gaze trained on her fianc, Alberto. His face is pale as he watches us, as we march out of the city we once brought to its knees.
Beatriz is next. When she walks, the hem of her finest dress swinging against her calves, the pale blue fabric adorned with lace, it's as though the entire airport holds its collective breath. She's the beauty in the family and she knows it.
I trail behind her, the knees beneath my skirts quivering, each step a weighty effort.
And then there's Maria, the last of the sugar queens.
At thirteen, Maria's too young to understand the need to keep her voice low, is able to disregard the soldiers standing in green uniforms, guns slung over their shoulders and perched in their eager hands. She knows the danger those uniforms bring, but not as well as the rest of us do. We haven't been able to remove the grief that has swept our family in its unrelenting curl, but we've done our best to shield her from the barbarity we've endured. She hasn't heard the cries of the prisoners held in cages like animals in La Caba–a, the prison now run by that Argentine monster. She hasn't watched Cuban blood spill on the ground.
But our father has.
He turns and silences her with a look, one he rarely employs yet is supremely effective. For most of our lives, he's left the care of his daughters to our mother and our nanny, Magda, too busy running his sugar company and playing politics. But these are extraordinary times, the stakes higher than any we've ever faced. There is nothing Fidel would love more than to make an example of Emilio Perez and his family-the quintessential image of everything his revolution seeks to destroy. We're not the wealthiest family in Cuba, or the most powerful one, but the close relationship between my father and the former president is impossible to ignore. Even the careless words of a thirteen-year-old girl can prove deadly in this climate.
Maria falls silent.
Our mother walks beside our father, her head held high. She insisted we wear our finest dresses today, hats and gloves, brushed our hair until it gleamed. It wouldn't do for her daughters to look anything but their best, even in exile.
Defiant in defeat.
We might not have fought in the mountains, haven't held weapons in our glove-covered hands, but there is a battle in all of us. One Fidel has ignited like a flame that will never be extinguished. And so we walk toward the gate in our favorite dresses, Cuban pride and pragmatism on full display. It's our way of taking the gowns with us, even if they're missing the jewels that normally adorn them. What remains of our jewelry is buried in the backyard of our home.
For when we return.
To be Cuban is to be proud-it is both our greatest gift and our biggest curse. We serve no kings, bow no heads, bear our troubles on our backs as though they are nothing at all. There is an art to this, you see. An art to appearing as though everything is effortless, that your world is a gilded one, when the reality is that your knees beneath your silk gown buckle from the weight of it all. We are silk and lace, and beneath them we are steel.
We try to preserve the fiction that this is merely a vacation, a short trip abroad, but the gazes following us around the airport know better-
Beatriz's fingers wrap around mine for one blissful moment. Those olive green-clad sentries watch our every move. There's something reassuring in her fear, in that crack in the facade. I don't let go.
The world as we know it has died, and I do not recognize the one that has taken its place.
A sense of hopelessness overpowers the departure area. You see it in the eyes of the men and women waiting to board the plane, in the tired set of their shoulders, the shock etched across their faces, their possessions clutched in their hands. It's present in the somber children, their laughter extinguished by the miasma that has overtaken all of us.
This used to be a happy place. We would welcome our father when he returned from a business trip, sat in these same seats three years earlier, full of excitement to travel to New York on vacation.
We take our seats, huddling together, Beatriz on one side of me, Maria on the other. Isabel sits apart from us, her pain a mantle around her shoulders. There are different degrees of loss here, the weight of what we leave behind inescapable.
My parents sit with their fingers intertwined, one of the rare displays of physical affection I've ever seen them partake in, worry in their eyes, grief in their hearts.
How long will we be gone? When will we return? Which version of Cuba will greet us when we do?
We've been here for hours now, the seconds creeping by with interminable slowness. My dress itches, a thin line of sweat running down my neck. Nausea rolls around in my stomach, an acrid taste in my mouth.
"I'm going to be sick," I murmur to Beatriz.
She squeezes my fingers. "No, you're not. We're almost there."
I beat the nausea back, staring down at the ground in front of me. The weight of the stares is pointed and sharp, and at the same time, it's as if we exist in a vacuum. The sound has been sucked from the room save for the occasional rustle of clothing, the stray sob. We exist in a state of purgatory, waiting, waiting-
"Now boarding . . ."
My father rises from his seat on creaky limbs; he's aged years in the nearly two months since President Batista fled the country, since the winds of revolution drifted from the Sierra Maestra to our corner of the island. Emilio Perez was once revered as one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in Cuba; now there's little to distinguish my father from the man sitting across the aisle, from the gentleman lining up at the gate. We're all citizens of no country now, all orphans of circumstance.
I reach out and take Maria's hand with my spare one.
She's silent, as though reality has finally sunk in. We all are.
We walk in a line, somber and reticent, making our way onto the tarmac. There's no breeze in the air today, the heat overpowering as we shuffle forward, the sun beating down on our backs, the plane looming in front of us.
I can't do this. I can't leave. I can't stay.
Beatriz pulls me forward, a line of Perez girls, and I continue on.
We board the plane in an awkward shuffle, the silence cracking and splintering as hushed voices give way to louder ones, a cacophony of tears filling the cabin. Wails. Now that we've escaped the departure area, the veneer of civility is stripped away to something unvarnished and raw-
I take a seat next to the window, peering out the tiny glass, hoping for a better view than that of the airport terminal, hoping . . .
We roll back from the gate with a jolt and lurch, silence descending in the cabin. In a flash, it's New Year's Eve again and I'm standing in the ballroom of my parents' friends' house, a glass of champagne in one hand. I'm laughing, my heart so full. There's fear lingering in the background, both fear and uncertainty, but there's also a sense of hope.
In minutes, my entire world changed.
President Batista has fled the country! Long live a free Cuba!
Is this freedom?
We're gaining speed now, hurtling down the runway. My body heaves with the movement, and I lose the battle, grabbing the bag in the seat pocket in front of me, emptying the contents of my stomach.
Beatriz strokes my back as I hunch over, as the wheels leave the ground, as we soar into the sky. The nausea hits me again and again, an ignominious parting gift, and when I finally look up, a startling shock of blue and green greets me, an artist's palette beneath me.
When Christopher Columbus arrived in Cuba, he described it as the most beautiful land human eyes had ever seen. And it is. But there's more beyond the sea, the mountains, the clear sky. There's so much more that we leave behind us.
How long will we be gone?
A year? Two?
When I was younger, I begged my grandmother to tell me about Cuba. It was a mythical island, contained in my heart, entirely drawn from the version of Cuba she created in exile in Miami and the stories she shared with me. I was caught between two lands-two iterations of myself-the one I inhabited in my body and the one I lived in my dreams.
We'd sit in the living room of my grandparents' sprawling house in Coral Gables, and she'd show me old photos that had been smuggled out of the country by intrepid family members, weaving tales about her life in Havana, the adventures of her siblings, painting a portrait of a land that existed in my imagination. Her stories smelled of gardenias and jasmine, tasted of plantains and mamey, and always, the sound of her old record player. Each time she'd finish her tale she'd smile and promise I would see it myself one day, that we'd return in grand style, reopening her family's seaside estate in Varadero and the elegant home that took up nearly the entire block of a tree-lined street in Havana.
When Fidel dies, we'll return. You'll see.
And finally, after nearly sixty years of keeping Cubans in suspense, of false alarms and hoaxes, he did die, outlasting my grandmother by mere months. The night he died, my family opened a bottle of champagne my great-grandfather had bought nearly sixty years ago for such an occasion, toasting Castro's demise in our inimitable fashion. The champagne, sadly, like Fidel himself, was past its prime, but we partied on Calle Ocho in Miami until the sun rose, and still-
Still we remain.
His death did not erase nearly sixty years of exile, or ensure a future of freedom. Instead I'm smuggling my grandmother's ashes inside my suitcase, concealed as jars in my makeup case, honoring her last request to me while we pray, hope, wait for things to change.
When I die, take me back to Cuba. Spread my ashes over the land I love. You'll know where.
And now sitting on the plane somewhere between Mexico City and Havana, armed with a notebook filled with scribbled street names and places to visit, a guidebook I purchased off the Internet, I have no clue where to lay her to rest.
They read my grandmother's will six months ago, thirty family members seated in a conference room in our attorney's office on Brickell. Her sisters were there-Beatriz and Maria. Isabel passed away the year before. Their children came with their spouses and their children, the next generations paying their respects. Then there was my father-her only child-my two sisters, and me.
The main parts of her will were fairly straightforward, no major surprises to be expected. My grandfather had died over two decades earlier and turned the family sugar business over to my father to run. There was the house in Palm Beach, which went to my sister Daniela. The farm in Wellington and the horses were left to my sister Lucia, the middle child. And I ended up with the house in Coral Gables, the site of so many imaginary trips to Cuba.
There were monetary bequests, and artwork, lists upon lists of items read by the attorney in a matter-of-fact tone, his announcements met with the occasional tear or exclamation of gratitude. And then there was her final wish-
Grandparents aren't supposed to play favorites, but my grandmother never played by anyone else's rules. Maybe it was the fact that I came into the world two months before my mother caught my father in bed with a rubber heiress. Lucia and Daniela had years of family unity before the Great Divorce, and after that, they had a bond with my mother I never quite achieved. My early years were logged between strategy sessions at the lawyers' offices, shuttled back and forth between homes, until finally my mother washed her hands of it all and went back to Spain, leaving me under the care of my grandmother. So perhaps because I was the daughter she never had, yet raised as her own, it made sense that she charged me with this-
No one in the family questioned it.
From her sisters, I received a list of addresses-including the Perez estate in Havana and the beach house no one had seen in over fifty years. They put me in contact with Ana Rodriguez, my grandmother's childhood best friend. Despite the passage of time, she'd been gracious enough to offer to host me for the week I'd be in Cuba. Perhaps she could shed some light on my grandmother's final resting place.
You always wanted to see Cuba, and it's my greatest regret that we were unable to do so in my lifetime. I am consoled, at least, by the image of you strolling along the Malec—n, the spray of salt water on your face. I imagine you kneeling in the pews of the Cathedral of Havana, sitting at a table at the Tropicana. Did I ever tell you about the night we snuck out and went to the club?
I always dreamed Fidel would die before me, that I would return home. But now my dream is a different one. I am an old woman, and I have come to accept that I will never see Cuba again. But you will.
To be in exile is to have the things you love most in the world-the air you breathe, the earth you walk upon-taken from you. They exist on the other side of a wall-there and not-unaltered by time and circumstance, preserved in a perfect memory in a land of dreams.
My Cuba is gone, the Cuba I gave to you over the years swept away by the winds of revolution. It's time for you to discover your own Cuba.
Reading Group Guide
Readers Guide for
Next Year in Havana
1. The novel alternates between Elisa Perez’s life in Cuba in 1958 and 1959 and her granddaughter Marisol Ferrera’s trip to Cuba in 2017. Which woman did you identify with more? What parallels can you see between their personalities and their lives? What differences?
2. The first chapter ends with Elisa wondering how long her family will be away from Cuba. The final chapter ends over a decade later with her posing the same question. How are the themes of hope and exile illustrated in the book? How does the weight of exile affect the Perez family?
3. When Marisol arrives in Cuba she struggles with identifying as Cuban because she grew up in the United States and because she has never set foot on Cuban soil. How much does a physical place define one’s identity? How does Marisol’s trip alter her views about being Cuban and change her perception of herself? How do Marisol and her family attempt to keep their heritage alive in exile? Are there stories and rituals handed down through the generations in your family?
4. Like her grandmother, Marisol falls in love with a man who has revolutionary political leanings. What similarities can you see between Pablo's and Luis’s dreams for Cuba? What differences are there in their worldview? How do they go about achieving their dreams for a better Cuba?
5. Sacrifice is a major theme that runs throughout the novel. How do the characters make sacrifices for one another, and what are some examples of them risking their safety and security for their loved ones? How do you think you would have acted in similar situations?
6. Family plays an important role in the novel, and each of the characters face their own struggles in their attempts to live up to their family’s expectations. What are some examples of this? Did you identify with one character’s point of view more? Are there certain expectations in your own family? Do you feel the need to live up to them? How have they shaped your life decisions?
7. Elisa’s final wish is to have her ashes scattered over Cuban soil. Do you agree with her decision? Would you have wanted your ashes spread in Cuba or would you have preferred to be buried on American soil? Do you think Marisol picked the best place to spread Elisa’s ashes? Where else would you have considered scattering them? Have you scattered the ashes of a loved one? What was the experience like?
8. What initially attracts Elisa to Pablo? Do you believe they would have been able to overcome the differences between them if they weren’t caught in the midst of the Cuban Revolution? Or was their love fueled by the urgency of the times?
9. Elisa chooses to save her letters from Pablo and her memories of their romance by burying them in a box in the backyard. If you had a box in which to bury your most precious possessions, what would you choose to keep safe?
10. What parallels do you see between life in modern Cuba and life in pre-revolutionary Cuba? What differences?
11. Pablo tells Elisa that everything is political. Do you agree with him?
12. Despite coming from very different backgrounds, Marisol and Luis share many similarities that bring them together as a couple. What are some examples of this? Why do you think they get along so well? Do you think they are a good influence on each other?
13. Pablo believes that the best way to change his country is from within. Others like Elisa’s family choose to leave Cuba because they can no longer support the regime. Which approach do you identify with? What are the differences between the Cubans who remained in Cuba and those who live in exile? What are the similarities?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
To be a Cuban-American woman is a difficult thing to explain. It means to long for an island you’ve never seen, despise a dictator you’ve never met, mourn for the loss of family members and possessions others could not take with them, and feel tremendous pressure to cook perfectly, be a beautiful wife, and succeed greater in your career than the generations before you who sacrificed and lost more than they’re ever willing to divulge. Marisol Ferrera is such a woman, a writer whose cherished Cuban immigrant grandmother has just past and left it to her to go to Cuba and find the perfect final resting place. But when she arrives, she finds letters her grandmother never shared, from a man the young Elisa loved long before Marisol’s grandfather, in the last days of the Cuban revolution that placed Fidel Castro in power. Elisa is a society girl of nineteen who knows nothing of revolution, other than her brother has been outcast from the family for speaking out against Batista’s injustices. But at a party, she meets a man named Pablo, filled with passion to right the social exploitations of his country’s leadership, and bring in a new way of living, of ending the suffering for the poor of whom Elisa knows nothing. While Pablo awoke Elisa’s mind to the sufferings of the Cuban people, so does the grandson of Elisa’s best childhood friend who remained in Cuba, a handsome university professor named Luis. He takes Marisol on a tour of the island for her magazine article, but he also tells her the truths that the government wishes no one to know, about what life is really like for the Cuban people, and what it means to be truly Cuban. Chanel Cleeton captures more than the essence of Cuba, she brings a country and its passions to life, while showing how to hold empathy even for an enemy, and fury even for a comrade. Next Year in Havana inflames the emotions, from rage at injustice, to peace at the sounds of the sea and the Malecon, and mouth-watering hunger for paella, ropa vieja, and espresso. Our hearts our broken at each loss, each death, yet still, somehow, filled with hope, like a true Cuban. For discussion questions, similar books, or a themed recipe of Mamey cupcakes with coconut frosting, visit http://hub.me/alTob
Truly amazing book made me feel like I was in Cuba and had experienced the revolution I could feel the love the storytelling really immersed me in the story loved it
This book has been on my radar for awhile and I was so excited to finally have the opportunity to read it. I don't normally comment on book covers, but this one is absolutely stunning and whoever designed it deserves some praise. The story that unfolded between the front and back covers was really some compelling historical fiction. So I'll admit I did not know much about the Cuban Revolution prior to reading this book. One reason I love historical fiction is sometimes it gives you the opportunity to learn an important part of history and allows you to connect with characters in a way that might not happen with nonfiction books. In this case it was hard not to immediately be drawn to Marisol, who has arrived in Cuba with the intent to spread her late grandmother Elisa's ashes. The action switches back and forth between the present day and the events of the late 1950s which led to Elisa and her family fleeing their home country. As Marisol learns more about her grandmother's past, she realizes maybe she didn't quite know her as well as she thought she did. I thought the author did a fine job capturing the complex feelings of the characters with regards to the country they loved. I think it is easy to make judgments based on decades later knowing how things played out but through the eyes of certain characters I was better able to understand their beliefs and the choices they made. My only real criticism is sometimes the story and dialogue got bogged down too much by the desire of the author to include as much information as possible about Cuba to the reader. There were a few instances in which I felt the dialogue came across stilted and textbook like rather than a natural conversation. Overall, a fine work of historical fiction and I am really looking forward to the author's next book which will feature the character of Beatriz. To be honest, I hope eventually all of the sisters and brother get their own novel because I think the author has a knack for capturing the voices of not only Cuban refugees but those that remained in the country as well. Thank you to Berkley Publishing Group for sending me a free copy of this book! All views expressed are my honest opinion.
I really didn't know what to expect from this book because I rarely read historic romance but being Chanel who wrote it and having loved her books in the past I knew I needed to read it. Next Year in Havan is told in two different voices, one is Elisa, she is living in Cuba in a tume of political turmoil, through her eyes we see what it was like living in Cuba at that time, the heartache she experience at seeing her world change drastically and how she fell in love with a man that she knew was going to bring her so much sorrow. The other narrator is Marisol and through her eyes we see modern Cuba, how people live and how much thinga need to change for the people living there. Marisol meets Luis and she finds what it was missing from her previous relationships but she knows them being together is going to be very hard. Chanel writes about Cuba in a way that makes you want to go and find books on these historical moments, she made want to find out more and more about it and also she made me remember when I was there visiting a few years ago. I found this book beautifully written, whit rich characters that commanded your attention. I look forward to put more pieces together in the Perez family history.
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Cuba is on the short list of places I want to visit and after reading this book, it completely remains there. A country that almost had the pause button pushed on innovation and infrastructure and has survived through many a men with differing opinions on how to move the country forward. I have never read a book set in Cuba and after reading this one, I am going to seek out more!
I really enjoyed this read - although it was a massive departure from my usual genre of crime/murder/mystery. Next Year in Havana follows Marisol, whose beloved grandmother has just passed away, and left in her will that she wants Marisol to take her ashes home to Cuba to be spread. Intertwined with Marisol's journey to Cuba, is the story of her grandmother, Elise, from her time as a young girl growing up in Cuba in the 1950's during the Cuban revolution, and her eventual exile to America. Chanel Cleeton writes beautifully, and brings Cuba to life for the reader. The research conducted for this book was thorough - there is a healthy dose of history and culture that the reader can dive fully into and be left feeling like you know Cuba like a dear old friend. I found myself drawn far more to the chapters unraveling Elise's story - being the daughter of a sugar baron, in a time of complete unrest where no one, particularly the rich, were safe from anything, and falling in love with a Cuban revolutionary. I could have read an entire book based solely on Elise's life story. Which - for fans of this book - you will be very excited to know that Chanel is now at work writing another chapter of this story, this time from the perspective of Elise's complex and spunky older sister, Beatrix. I, for one, cannot WAIT for that to be released. Overall, a highly interesting read, especially for those who enjoy historical fiction.
Review written by Marie for Ever After Book Reviews! Ooooooookay. This book was kind of like 2 stories in one, so let me… explain. Marisol is our main character of the book. After her beloved grandmother passes away, she is drawn to the stories and the romanticism that was her grandmother, Elisa’s, life. Swept up in what she’s heard of her grandmother’s life in Cuba, Marisol plans a trip there, and finds out there’s more than she bargained for when it comes to her family’s past. What makes this so unique, however, is that the book is written in past and present – it tells the story of Elisa’s life in 1950s Cuba, and Marisol’s life in real-time. So, because of that, I’ll review this one a little differently. Elisa’s Storyline This was, by far, my favorite storyline of the book. The amount of detail that was put in to describing life in Cuba at this time, transported me there. Living every detail and every moment with each word. It was absolutely beautiful. The culture, the life, the romance… I was swept up in it and was so disappointed when I had to leave this storyline as I was reading. Elisa’s relationship with Pablo was so…… *sigh* Their love was so genuine, so beautiful… so pure. My heart broke at their struggle to steal precious moments with one another during the revolution. Just… wow. Marisol’s Storyline Her storyline was incredibly sweet, until it wasn’t. She meets Luis at the Havana International Airport, and spends a week with him. I really enjoyed them together. But then Luis, quite frankly, pissed me off. His inability to make good decisions irritated me… which then made me irritated with Marisol. A week in to a relationship and home girl is spewing “I love you” to this man. Really? The Secret Yeah, don’t worry. I won’t reveal WHAT it is. But I can tell you that it was written very nicely as a HUGE plot twist that I never would have seen coming. However, once the revelation of the twist happens, Marisol, yet again, gets… annoying. Enter a reader’s worst nightmare: WAY. TOO. MUCH. INNER. MONOLOGUE. Please, please stop with the head ramblings, authors. It’s in no way beneficial to the story whatsoever. Cuba I’ve already said… the details that the author went in to to describe Cuba were incredible. I seriously felt like I was there. Overall This book had over-the-top great parts… and then some not so great parts. But overall, it was an enjoyable read with a lot of history. I really did enjoy it, for the most part, and would even go so far as to say that if a few things had been done differently, it may have been the best book I’d read all year. ***I voluntarily read a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and feelings are my own***
Next Year in Havana is told in dual time periods. Elisa Perez tells her story from the 1950’s Cuba and Marisol Ferrera, Elisa’s granddaughter, tells of the 2017 Cuba. Many years separate their stories, things have changed, things have stayed the same, and there is so much of Marisol’s family history to be discovered while in Cuba. I have never been to Cuba and have no ties to Cuba. Yet, while I was reading the book I felt like I was there. I could picture Havana, see the beautiful water, and feel the struggles of the Cuba people. I could also imagine Marisol’s awe at going to a country that she had only heard stories about yet it still played such a huge part of her life. Her entire family history centered on and around Cuba and now she was there. Next Year in Havana is an emotional story that tells so much history and family stories. There is hope, love, and strength in family. It is early in 2018 but this is definitely going to be on my favorite reads of 2018 .
This was such a lovely story! I have to admit that the beautiful cover of this book is what first caught my attention. Once I took a closer look, I decided to give it a try since the story sounded really interesting. The book ended up being more than interesting. I was swept away by the story and felt Cuba come alive within the pages. I am so glad that I decided to give this book a try. This story is told in two timelines. Marisol's story is set in 2017 shortly after her grandmother's death. She goes to Cuba to see the country where her grandmother grew up and find the right place to spread her ashes. Elisa is Marisol's grandmother. Her story is set in 1958 as Cuba is in crisis. I really enjoyed both of the timelines equally and loved how everything came together. I really liked the characters in this book. Elisa and her family were in a very difficult situation. The fact that Elisa and two of her sisters were young adults trying to find their place in the world only made things more difficult for them. Elisa was willing to following her emotions even when she knew it may not be the safe choice. I could really feel all of her struggle as she tries to figure out what to do. Marisol was very close to her grandmother and is eager to see the Cuba she has heard so much about. I liked Marisol right away. I liked how she took her responsibility to carry out her grandmother's wishes so seriously and wanted to learn more about her life in Cuba. I thought that all of the secondary characters were very well done in the story as well. I think that the setting of this book really helped it stand out. I have read very little of Cuba and am a bit ashamed by how little I really know of the country. I felt like Cuba came alive in the pages of this book. The setting really almost became a character in the book. The descriptions were so vivid that I really felt that I could close my eyes and see the things that the characters saw. The mystery of the story really kept my interest. I wanted to know what had happened to Elisa all those years ago and was eager to learn what Marisol would find. I was equally interested in seeing how the events in the book would impact Marisol's life. There were a few twists along the way and enough excitement to keep the pages turning. I would highly recommend this book to others. I thought that this book told a remarkable story that will stay with me for a long time. This was the first book by Chanel Cleeton that I have had the chance to read and I look forward to reading more of her work in the future. I received an advance reader edition of this book from Berkley Publishing Group via NetGalley.
Review: NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA by Chanel Cleeton Publication Date: February 6, 2018 Genre: Historical / Women’s Fiction Reviewed by: Reading in Pajamas/ Cori Rated 5 Stars NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA is the book I’m going to be telling all my friends, all my relatives, random people on the street and anyone else who will listen to me, to read this year! I absolutely loved it! The characters, the story, the setting, the imagery and all the other little aspects Chanel Cleeton put into this book, made it something beautiful and epic. The present day story is told by Marisol when she travels to Cuba to spread her grandmother, Elisa’s ashes. Then we also get Elisa’s story in Cuba in the 1950s. I don’t want to go into details about the plot because it has some surprises I don’t want to ruin. Their stories will live with me for a long while. I truly loved this book and will be recommending it to everyone. Pour a glass of wine, set some music and curl up with this book. You’ll enjoy it. *Review copy provided by Penguin in exchange for an honest review.
I have never read such a poignant story, one that is so eloquently written, blending both bittersweet moments with those filled with love and hope. Cleeton's story tells the history of tragic heartache while still somehow keeping hope and a pursuit of what is deemed right and worthy at the forefront. Next Year in Havana stunned me. The beautiful imagery of pre Castro Cuba paints a picture that slowly crumbles as you read. Jumping in time from 1959 to the present allows the reader to put together a mural full of so many conflicting emotions and colors. Elisa and Marisol's stories might be centuries apart but they are so alike in their trajectory. The innocence is lost in the face of injustice and love takes root in the most unlikely of places. I don't know which timeline was my favorite in this book. I guess you could say that one would not be as powerful without the other. The past sets the stage for the future, and the future needs to find what happened in the past. Marisol is a beautiful character, one caught between who she is taught to be and who she is becoming. Watching her make choices and navigate the dangers of her new reality is not something to take lightly. To be Cuban, living a life exiled from your country, is a way of life for her and her family. They have longed for years to return to their homeland, but that will never be the case for so many of them. Elisa embodies an innocence that falls apart in front of you. It is both beautiful and haunting to watch events unfold. As you go back and forth in time, something Cleeton shares with such brilliant precision, you wonder how anything good can come from what is happening. The history and actual reality of what happened is shared in a way that leaves a mark. There is a melancholy that cannot be denied between the pages of this book. But where there is so little hope, beauty somehow springs forth. Second chances are given and reality is altered forever. I wish I could read this book again, as if for the first time. Cleeton's writing has never been so powerful. I was moved in a way I have not been in so long. This story tugs and rips at your heartstrings, giving you a story that is real, harsh, and achingly lovely. I cannot wait to know more of the Perez family, to see what happened with Beatriz in 1959 and beyond.
This novel spans the lives of a well-to-do family who thrive in and love the Cuba of their past in the 1950s and the Miami where they live as exiles in the present. The Floridian Cubans have recreated their past which they celebrate. But the love they shared as family is actually all that remains of the real world in present day Havana and its outlying neighborhoods. This novel takes the reader deeply through both worlds in a transforming story that should be must reading. Half of the Perez family fled Cuba in 1967. Elisa Perez’s granddaughter, Marisol, has now returned to Cuba with her late grandmother’s ashes, accompanied with the instructions for Marisol to scatter Elisa’s ashes “where she thinks best” and a surety that Marisol would know where when the moment came. Marisol meets Luis, a married man to whom she is attracted, who introduces her to the real Cuba where everyone is equal, equally poor, equally oppressed, and equally fearful of being arrested for criticizing the government of Fidel and then Raoul Castro. Multiple shocks fill Marisol and the reader as we realize that we don’t have a clue as to what it’s like to live in a Communist regime. However, that stark reality is juxtaposed with the beauty of Cuba’s shores, flowers, trees and homes and the fierce pride of its people. Luis is a professional history professor who takes Marisol through the historical background of the people who hope for so much but wait for it in silent patience. Others are not so patient and the violence is never far from day-to-day living. In the past life of Cubans, Elisa, who comes from an aristocratic family, meets and falls in love with a Cuban rebel, a man who believes that Fidel is the answer to becoming free of Battista, the former ruler of Cuba. Elisa struggles fiercely to mesh the spoiled lifestyle she enjoys without thought and the life and death struggle that so many Cubans, including family members, are living to move the country toward what they believe will be a free, democratic society. The story neither sanctifies nor vilifies the rebels in different generations. Instead the author deftly allows the reader to observe and reflect on the realities of Cuban life, government and freedom movements, forming one’s own opinions which cannot be avoided. This is masterful historical fiction in which one gets to know not only the history of Cuba but the strengths and foibles of very human, passionate people who cherish their Cuba.
Atmospheric, absorbing, and incredibly heartfelt! Next Year in Havana is a riveting tale that sweeps you into a country ravished by rebellion, oppression, economic instability, and political upheaval, and a populace that's confused, disappointed, angry and struggling with self-identity, patriotism, and a lack of freedom and rights. The story is set in Cuba during both the late 1950s, as well as present day and is full of mystique, familial drama, heartbreak, secrets, deception, history, culture, courage, loss, self-discovery, hope, and romance. The prose is eloquent and vivid. The characters are multi-layered, sympathetic, and torn. And the plot is well crafted and uses a past/present style to unravel all the motivations, personalities, and relationships within it. Next Year in Havana is the perfect blend of historical facts, intriguing fiction, and palpable emotion. It's a beautifully written story that is nostalgic, heartbreaking, fascinating and sweet and highlights Cleeton's passion for her familial heritage.
I received a free ARC of this book through Penguin Random House. This book has such a beautiful cover. I have to confess my ignorance about Cuba other than cigars, a bit about Fidel Castro and communists, and it being 90 miles from Florida. This book, while being fiction, also has a great deal of history about this beautiful island country that has been a mystery to much of the world for a long time. I thought the story telling was interspersed very well with the history of Cuba to make me feel like I need to research more about Cuba. It is definitely a good read and I look forward to reading more from this author.
If you enjoy past-present stories, if you're at all curious about Cuba, if you like your novels to come with a love story, you are going to need this book in your life. Next Year In Havana is an immersive experience. I didn't know a great deal about Cuba prior to reading this but Cleeton brought the country and its people alive. From the scenery to the richly drawn characters, we are drawn further and further into the story. Or rather, both stories. While officially Marisol travels to Cuba to write an article on tourism now that restrictions have eased, unofficially she's there on a journalist's visa to return her grandmother Elisa's ashes to her native country. Elisa's family left the country when Castro took over but they never thought Castro would stay in power or that they'd never be able to return. I can only imagine the heartbreak of leaving your home and then never being able to go back. Upon Marisol's arrival, she meets Luis, the handsome professor grandson of her grandmother's best friend Ana. Through Ana and Luis, Marisol is able to see the Cuba from her grandmother's stories, as well as the Cuba of today. There may have been a revolution in 1959 but the Castro regime has not made things better. As a character notes, revolutionaries dream of dying for their country, not governing it or figuring out what systems need to be in place or how to word the constitution. Without the necessary infrastructure, corruption and rigged elections become the norm. The disparity between the rich and the poor grows wider and those who left can never return. This would have been a great story itself but Next Year In Havana is elevated by including Elisa's story as well. These intertwining stories introduce us to Cuba's history, its rise and fall, and its current struggles. As Marisol and Luis spend time visiting her grandmother's favorites places in Havana, their connection grows and I loved watching their relationship. Similarly, as we flash back to 1958, we get to see a burgeoning relationship between wealthy girl Elisa and her revolutionary Pablo. I loved both of these love stories. The tensions and difficulties in both relationships do a great job of illustrating the problems Cuba faced then and now. As their relationship unfolds, Marisol digs deeper into the mystery of who her grandmother was while she lived in Cuba and why Elisa never told her granddaughter about her first love. This pushes the plot along and I was dying to know what had come of Pablo, as well as whether Luis and Marisol could overcome their differences or if the Cuban government would interfere. There are such high stakes—someone could lose their life and the dangers are very real—and I honestly had no idea what might happen. We cover a lot of ground in this novel. Two love stories, two depictions of Cuba. It highlights what modern Cubans have undergone and it does not shy away from the US government's complicity in Cuba's plight. I learned a lot but I never felt like I was being taught. I was wrapped up in wonderfully written story. This is Chanel Cleeton’s best work yet. I'm excited Cleeton will be continuing the story of the Perez sisters with Beatriz in When We Left Cuba. It's going to be so good! Next Year In Havana is Chanel Cleeton's chance to shine a light on Cuba. It's her call for change and for the international community to take action. Disclosure: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton Because I was a teacher in Miami for over 30 years, I was thrilled to win an Advance Reader Copy of Next Year in Havana. The book fulfilled my expectations, because my many students of Cuban descent had told me about similar situations. I recognized the local references and was fascinated with the descriptions of Havana, both in the past and in the present. The plot twists were intriguing, the characters and events seemed real, and the text flowed smoothly. I really enjoyed the double story line, the various mysteries, the family dynamics, and the evident authenticity of people and geography. I recommend Next Year in Havana highly, not just for my Cuban-American friends, but for all who enjoy well-written fiction, both historical and contemporary.
4.75 stars--NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA is the first instalment in Chanel Cleeton’s women’s fiction/ historical romance fiction series focusing on the Cuban-American Perez family. This is Eliza Perez, and her granddaughter Marisol Ferrera’s story line. Told from alternating timelines, and dual first person points of view (Eliza and Marisol) NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA is a story of historical fiction; of revolution; of politics and war; of surviving against the odds during the Cuban revolution; of one family’s history between the present and the past. Upon the death of her cherished grandmother Eliza Perez, Marisol Ferrera embarks on a journey to Cuba, where she will meet her future, and uncover her past. Returning her grandmother’s ashes to her beloved homeland, Marisol will encounter the true meaning of struggle and loss, as she goes in search of her family’s history, finding more than she could ever imagined. NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA is a fictionalized account of one well-to-do family’s struggle growing up in the 50s during the Cuban Revolution, their flight to freedom, and the promises made to one day return. We follow as one woman defies her family as she falls in love with a man of questionable affiliations; and another woman discovers that the past never forgets; that lessons learned are easily forgotten. Chanel Cleeton pulls the reader into the turmoil and upheaval of Cuba in the late1950’s; where family is pitted against family; neighbors against neighbors; the rich against the poor. An engaging, brilliantly written, and intoxicating tale of the human spirit, love and never letting go.
4.5 Compelling Stars!! Next Year in Havana is an epic and compelling story. It is so unique and so different from anything that I’ve read from this author to date. Now, I will be the first to admit that I struggle with the Historical Romance genre, but I am so glad that I decided to give this book a chance. I had no idea what to expect and just loved getting swept up in this story. Next Year in Havana is so incredibly unique and is told in dual timelines. That’s right dual timelines. It was so incredibly gripping. I was hooked from page one and was unable to put it down. I couldn’t get enough of the story. This book was just so unexpected. My emotions were all over the place as I was taken on the most amazing journey. This story was so much more than I ever anticipated. Next Year in Havana is well written, full of heart and history. It was everything I could have asked for in a Historical Romance. I loved getting lost and consumed by this book. It is an unforgettable story of love, loss, heartache, courage and family. It is so powerful and is so much more than I ever expected. I am blown away by the story that this author has written.
What incredible imagery this author created. I was just a few chapters in and already had the urge to google Havana, Cuba trying to find the homes being described in 1958. This was a very unique book for me. Full of Cuban politics and flashing back and forth in time between two couples. One in 1958 and one in present time. Elisa and Pablo. Marisol and Luis. Grandmother and granddaughter. Their lives so different but so similar when they meet the love of their life. I can't get over how the author was able to bring both their stories to life in the way that she did. The struggles in Cuba that just seems so helpless in both times. The type of men they both fell in love with and their struggle with doing right by their country over personal wants. This book was more than a romance book. It was also a history lesson, a cultural lesson through the eyes of two very strong women and their men. Don't judge me but I'm not a fan of politics or history so the fact that the author had me mesmerized is no small feat. This book did not end on a cliffhanger but I also felt it wasn't over. I'm hoping this means she plans to write more. ARC provided by NetGalley.
My Review of “Next Year in Havana” by Chanel Cleeton I loved everything about “Next Year in Havana” by Chanel Cleeton. The genres for this novel are Historical Fiction and Fiction. I appreciate the descriptions of the beauty and destruction of Cuba, and both the hope and despair of the Cuban people. The timelines for this story are 1958 in Havana Cuba, where we meet Elisa Perez, a 19-year-old unaware of Cuba’s political problems. Elisa’s family is very wealthy and produces sugar. Elisa happens to meet a young revolutionary, and her life changes forever. When Fidel Castro takes over Cuba, the Perez family is forced to leave Cuba to go to Miami. In 2017, in Miami, Journalist Marisol Ferrara, granddaughter of Elisa is dealing with her grandmother’s death. Marisol was brought up by Elisa and has always heard stories about growing up in Cuba. Elisa honors her grandmother’s written request to take her ashes to Cuba, and find the appropriate place to scatter them. The author describes her colorful cast of characters as complex and complicated, perhaps due to the political climate of the times. The characters are brave, courageous, and have secrets. In both timelines, it is evident that no one lives in a “free” society in Cuba. Marisol gets to see the Cuba of her grandmother’s dreams. It is an eye-opening experience in Cuba, to see how the people live today. Kudos to the author for weaving her novel with two stories with such appropriate and descriptive detail. The author describes the importance of family, friends, loyalty, courage, love and hope. I would highly recommend this novel to readers of Historical Fiction. I received An Advanced Reading Copy for my honest review.
For for the Tia Beatrix story!!!!!