Next Year in Havana

Next Year in Havana

by Chanel Cleeton


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399586682
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/06/2018
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 3,893
Product dimensions: 5.28(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.98(d)

About the Author

Chanel Cleeton is the USA Today bestselling author of Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick Next Year in Havana. She received 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 Docto from the University of South Carolina School of Law. She loves to travel and has lived in the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Excerpted from "Next Year in Havana"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Chanel Cleeton.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

Readers Guide for Next Year in Havana

Discussion Questions

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?

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Next Year in Havana 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was a lovely read -it shed light on Cuba and cuban history. Made me realize how little I know the country and the events of its history. I look forward to her next book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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
Book_and_recipe_Examiner More than 1 year ago
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
Honolulubelle 9 days ago
Favorite Quotes: … there’s a faint sheen of gray that adorns the landscape as though the entire city needs a good scrubbing. Havana is like a woman who was grand once and has fallen on hard times, and yet hints of her former brilliance remain, traces of an era since passed, a photograph faded by time and circumstance, its edges crumbling to dust. I feel as though I’ve become a point of curiosity, an exhibit like the island of crocodiles at the Havana Zoo, those mighty animals sunning their backs with contempt for the gawking tourists and locals who point and exclaim over their size. Being a Perez in Havana— one of the sugar queens— is akin to wondering if you should charge admission for the window into your life… There’s a different level of poverty in Cuba that suggests that not only is the deck stacked against you, but someone keeps stealing all the cards. Terrible things rarely happen all at once… They’re incremental, so people don’t realize how bad things have gotten until it’s too late. My Review: I confess to blatant ignorance about Cuba, past or present. Before picking up this exceptionally detailed account, my accumulated knowledge about Cuba was limited to vague memory of the rafters, something about JFK and the Bay of Pigs fiasco, and that Fidel Castro had been an oppressive communist dictator who gave long boring speeches that he forced his citizens to listen to for hours on end in the heat and sun, I remember my severely strict sixth grade teacher fervently pounding that last fact home and later putting on a test. I also have a vivid memory of looking at a picture of the heavily reviled man with an unkempt beard and dressed in green fatigues and a billed cap and thinking him an unhinged monster; an opinion that apparently was deeply imprinted on my gray matter as it has held through to present day. Chanel Cleeton’s highly descriptive and epic story was written in dual timelines and from a dual POV, and I enjoyed the juxtaposition. Sixty-years after her then nineteen-year-old grandmother had fled a dangerous and chaotic Cuba with her family, Marisol takes a trip to Cuba to spread her grandmother’s ashes and hopefully learn about her family history while traveling under the guise of a journalistic junket to gather information for a tourism article about Cuba. Careful what you wish for - she uncovered dark secrets that her beloved grandmother had never hinted it, as well as stunning revelations concerning her family tree. The storylines were lushly detailed and swirling with atmosphere, and could easily be deployed as a fully fleshed-out screenplay. The emotional tone was fraught with tension and heavy with angst. I could have done with about one hundred fewer pages repeatedly outlining the abuses and folly of past and present political systems, as politics are just not my jam. However, the examples of basic day-to-day challenges the politically polarized Cuban citizens endured and continue to struggle with carried considerable more impact for me and were expertly executed. I have been schooled, and in a significantly more entertaining manner than my harsh and unyielding sixth-grader teacher could have ever aspired to.
BMedvid 4 months ago
“ 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. Perhaps we’re the dreamers in all of this; the hopeful ones. Dreaming of a Cuba we cannot see with our eyes, that we cannot touch, whose taste lingers on our palates, with the tang of memory.” “I walk down these streets, and I look out to sea, and I want to feel as though I belong here, but I am a visitor here, a guest in my own country… then you know what it means to be Cuban … we always reach for something beyond our grasp.” This story revolved around Marisol Ferraro and her grandmother, Elisa Perez. As the book begins, Elisa had just passed and in her will, she requested that Marisol disperse her cremated remains back in her beloved home of Cuba. As a wealthy, influential family that supported Batista, the Perez family chose to flee Cuba as Castro rose to power. Elisa was a privileged young woman with great hopes that they would soon be able to return home. However, she spent the remainder of her life in Miami regaling her children and grandchildren with tales of her love for Cuba. “Next year in Havana” is a toast that the family never stopped saying because the dream of returning never came true. The novel tells the parallel stories of Elisa’s last year in Cuba and Marisol’s visit to Cuba. Both women, decades apart, face complicated love stories with ardent revolutionaries and live in perilous political climates that ultimately force them to face what it means to be Cuban. Can one “be of a place” without being “from the place”? Cleeton allows Cuba to shine and be a star character in this novel. She captures and shares its beauty, people, history, customs, fortunes, and misfortunes with great care and devotion. She displays a real passion for Cuba and contrasts the dream of “old Cuba” with the reality of current Cuba. During both decades, the characters dream for a better future and hope to stop being guests in their own country. As a reader, I learned quite a bit about the past and present political climates of Cuba. My one complaint about the novel was that at times it felt too much like a political lecture about Cuba. I suspect the author’s intent with this was to show how important political forces were and are to the Cuban people in terms of shaping their lives and country. Next Year in Havana was an interesting book and definitely worth the read. It was a love story, on multiple levels, combined with a history and politics lesson. It makes the reader both feel and think. Cleeton has another novel about the Perez family coming out in April 2019 titled When We Left Cuba. It follows Elisa’s older sister, Beatriz. I look forward to continuing to read about the family and, of course, Cuba.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Rhonda-Runner1 5 months ago
I was very fortunate to win a signed copy of this wonderful book through one of the many book groups I belong to on Facebook. I immediately fell in love with this story very early on. Elisa Perez is the daughter of a sugar baron in Havana in 1958. She meets and falls in love with Pablo who is part of the revolutionary. The family has to flee Havana and they settle in Florida. Fast forward to present day when Elisa's granddaughter, Marisol, is asked to take Elisa's ashes to Havana where she will stay with her grandmother's best friend Ana. At Ana's home, Marisol meets Ana's grandson, Luis, and lots of things happen after that. The story alternates between 1958 Havana and Elisa's life to present day Havana and Marisol who begins to discover numerous family secrets. I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful book and visiting Cuba has been added to my bucket list. I highly recommend this book.
Anonymous 5 months ago
Anonymous 7 months ago
I thought the story started out with potential, but soon turned to be a very silly story. The main character was in Cuba one week and had about a years worth of experiences. The grandfather part was the most ridiculous scenario.
OMillard 7 months ago
This book tells it like it was. I was born in Cuba and left there at the age of nine, two years after the revolution. I was taken back to the those days, before we were able to leave. The "don't tell anyone warning", from my parents, once we had decided to leave. Walking around pretending everything was fine, when in fact we were terrified. As much as our parents tried to shield us, we knew life as we had experienced it was about to change. My sister and I were part of the Operation Peter Pan airlifts. My parents had to stay behind, while we flew to the United States and were placed in a Catholic orphanage, until they were able to leave. We left everything behind, our house, car, personal belongings, but most importantly, our family and friends. I never saw my grandmother, aunts , uncles, cousins again. So grateful for my life in this country. Reading this book makes me realize once more how fortunate we were to get out when we did, and that if not for my parents strength my life would have been so different.
Two2dogs 8 months ago
Loved this story, have two friends who both left Cuba with their families just as Castro was taking over, both women come from well to do families so had the means of leaving Cuba, so this story really made me think of my dear friends who to this day, after being in America for 60 years still say they want to return to Cuba!
Anonymous 9 months ago
Wonderful story learned so much about what happened with Battista & Castro
Anonymous 11 months ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this story. Great story to read following my trip to Havanna.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Katie__B More than 1 year ago
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.
BookWorm221 More than 1 year ago
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.
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
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!
Candice_S More than 1 year ago
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.
EverAfterBookReviews More than 1 year ago
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***
CharlotteLynnsReviews More than 1 year ago
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 .
Caroles_Random_Life More than 1 year ago
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.
ReadingInPajamas More than 1 year ago
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.
christokes More than 1 year ago
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.
literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
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.