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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.
Source: advance e-galley provided in exchange for an honest review
It's 1959 and the opening scene is fraught with tension as Elisa Perez and the rest of her family silently walk through the airport under the guise of a happy family going on vacation. The truth is that this well-to-do family, the cream of the crop of Cuba's upper class is leaving the country for good. They've watched their country change before their eyes and seeing the writing on the wall, they accept that they must say goodbye for now and hope to return in a few years when the political climate has settled down. Elisa couldn't have known then that it would be the last time she'd see her beloved country. That when she'd finally return decades later, it would be so her precious granddaughter Marisol could bury her ashes in her homeland that she never stopped yearning for. It's through the dual points of view of Elisa and Marisol that Chanel Cleeton shows us the Cuba of the past leading up to Castro's revolution, and the Cuba of now years after the revolution. The old family friends that Marisol meets welcomes her with open arms. But it's with the help of a young man, a history professor, who serves as her tour guide who shows her the Cuba of the in between. And as she searches for the perfect place to bury her grandmother's ashes, she unearths secrets about her that sends her on a life-changing journey.
Simply put, Next Year In Havana is stunning and exquisite. Based on and inspired by her Cuban grandmother, Cleeton has delivered a love letter to the country and its people, inviting her readers to see its complex history and wealth of culture. I hardly know anything about Cuba but I feel I've received an outstanding introduction through the historical information that she includes in the story. Perhaps most illuminating is what it means to be Cuban and the dividing line between those who stayed and those who left.
Amidst the political turmoil is a heartbreaking love story and another that rings of a possible future. I'm always looking for that book that'll draw me in and become a part of me. This one wrung my heart out. I've read all of Cleeton's books - she's written a variety of genres - and I can say that Next Year In Havana is the most beautiful story she has written. With breathtaking descriptions, she brings the Cuba of her grandmother's generation to life and also shows compassion for what Cuba is today. The contrast between the before and after are staggering. But at its very heart is the people and through reliving the past, a budding romance and a suspenseful turnabout, I cannot express enough how much I've been moved by Next Year In Havana and that it's one of my favourite books of this year.