I always enjoy knowing an author s inspiration for a story In the acknowledgments, which introduce the book, Chanel Cleeeton call this the book of my heart and thanks her family for sharing their stories It wasn t until I heard her in an interview relating a story that her father told her about how people would put their valuables in boxes and bury the box before they left Cuba, that I knew the specific thing This seemed to reflect a hope that they would someday return A box buried by a young girl as she and her family flee Cuba in 1958 is a meaningful part of this novel I loved knowing that this was the spark that started this story and that she is connected to the narrative because her family did indeed flee Cuba after the revolution In Havana, in the late 1950s we meet Elisa from an affluent family, sugar barons as they are leaving Cuba This narrative alternates with her granddaughter Marisol s in 2017 as she goes to Cuba to spread her grandmother s ashes The past story is a love story where the political history of Cuba in the late 1950s is played out I have to admit how little I really knew about this complicated history from the not too distant past That made it all theinteresting to me.On one level you could read this as a love story and then there is another love story in the present day which is not as believable as the earlier one or you could see the history and the politics, the Cuba of the past and present through these relationships A story of family ties, love, and friendship woven into the politics and history of pre revolutionary Cuba connecting it to the present day Loyalty, love of country , the dangerous business of beliefs contrary to those in power told with the natural beauty of the island as the backdrop and the ambiance of Havana I felt confident of the details of the politics given that the author has academic degrees in international politics I thoroughly enjoyed this even with an ending that was a little too pat It was well written and appealed to me from the beginning to the end I received an advanced copy of this book from Berkeley through NetGalley. 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 RevolutionHavana,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 RevolutionaryMiami,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 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 ARC provided by Berkley in exchange for an honest review.We carry our home with us in our hearts, laden with hope So much hopeNext Year in Havana is such an amazing book that had me crying all the happy tears, all the sad tears, and all the in between tears I feel like this ownvoices book, that Chanel Cleeton crafted, took a piece of my heart, and I m fine living without it, because this book was such a work of art, inside and out And this beautiful story is told in two different timelines from two different women Elisa Who is living in 1958 Havana, which is constantly unsafe Elisa has lived aprivileged life than most, because her family is wealthy, and her father works under the current president, Batista But the people aren t happy, and Fidel Castro and his revolutionary followers are on the rise No one is safe, and Elisa realizes very quickly that her heart isn t safe either Marisol Who is living in 2017 Miami, but currently taking a trip to Havana to lay Elisa s ashes to rest, in the city that always had her heart Even after being forced to leave so many years ago Marisol sees first hand that impact that Fidel Castro has left on Cuba when her grandmother and her family were forced to fleeLove feels like a luxury in a world where so many struggle for the basic things I take for grantedAnd each timeline follows a different heart wrenching and heart mending romance And these two stories interweave together to create somethingbeautiful than I have words for I was so addicted, and I couldn t stop turning the pages This book is also so atmospheric I felt like I was alongside both of these girls in Cuba And I could feel the sad, heartbreaking reality of what Cuba was like in 1950, and what it is still like in almost 2020 I was born and raised in the United States, and it just made me evenaware of my privilege It also made me side eye my country a bitthan usual, tooThe Americans preach liberty, and freedom, and democracy at home, and practice tyranny throughout the rest of the worldAnd one of my favorite aspects of this book was Marisol bringing up her thoughts and feelings about being biracial and feeling equal parts like an outsider and like at home while she is in Cuba I m a lotwhite passing than Marisol, but the things she deals with and feels when she travels to Cuba, is something so real and something so very close to my Filipina heartMy grandparents are Cuban, my father Cuban, therefore I am Cuban But will it matter here that my skin is lighter than many of the country s citizens, that my blood is not fully Cuban Am I an outsider here or is the ancestry I claim enoughI also loved how this book celebrates all the different types of love we will have during our lifetime Love that we will never forget Love from second chances at love that will make us feel whole again Love between friends who will never forget us Love between people who are family, no matter the blood that runs through our veins Love for a country that never loved back Okay, so this book was amazing, but I did have two minor things that were the reason I didn t give this five stars The first being, it was very predictable to me I mean, that didn t stop all the tears from coming, but I knew where this was going as soon as Elisa snuck out with her sisters The next being Elisa s father Marisol s grandpa Like, damn, I understand why, but what a dick And I personally always really dislike the miscommunication trope, even though I loved this book with my whole heartWhen you love something you don t count the costAnd overall, I recommend this book to any and every book lover And I think this was such a wonderful pick for Reese s book club And I cannot wait to see where Chanel Cleeton takes Beatriz s story in When We Left Cuba in 2019 Blog Instagram Twitter Tumblr Youtube Twitch Trigger and content warnings for loss of a loved one, abandonment, and war themes Also, off screen captivity, torture, and murder The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.If you would have told little kid bookworm Melanie that Berkley would one day send her a book because it s July s pick for Reese Witherspoon s future book club, she would not have believed you And probably ran, because I was a paranoid kid and I would have thought you were a kidnapper, but still For me, the worst kinds of books are those that disappoint.Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton promised an intriguing glimpse into the mystery of Havana, that forbidden place that s been sequestered by corrupt government and untouched by big brand corporate America, indeed isolated in what would seem to be an alternate time Cleeton endeavors to juxtapose the social and political tensions during the Batista era and the 1959 revolution with the everyday struggles facing present day Cubans She positions her main character, Marisol in such a way as to hold up a mirror to Americans and Cuban Americans alike to show our privilege in living here, as well as our impact on Cuban life Marisol is a Cuban American writer whose wealthy family escaped to Miami just after the rise of Fidel Upon the death of her grandmother, Elisa, Marisol is charged with smuggling her ashes back into Cuba, as her dying wish is to be scattered in the land she loved.The story unfolds in an alternating narrative between Elisa s young adulthood in 1959 Cuba, and Marisol s first visit to the land of her childhood fantasies Elisa and her sisters are considered the sugarcane princesses due to their family s wealth in the sugar industry, and their days are filled with parties, shopping, and fancy dinners There are no surprises in this novel, except to Marisol, who did not expect to uncover a secret love affair between Elisa and a revolutionary named Pablo Unsurprisingly, Cleeton attempts to draw parallel plots, thus Marisol also falls in love with a revolutionary Luis.Unfortunately, the fragments of good writing are so sparse, so few and far between, that this work hardly has legs to stand on Using the present tense may have been the wrong choice for a debut author who hasn t yet figured out how to engage her readers with captivating descriptions that merge atmosphere, action, and dialog To entice her audience and hold our attentions, Cleeton needed to approach her characters worlds with a wider view, which a past tense narration could have achieved Both Luis and Pablo are characters created for the sole purpose of relaying Cuba s history, the former being a history professor and the latter a lawyer Ultimately, this device led to pages upon pages of pedantic, repetitive dialog stalling the action, and leading Cleeton to fall into that show don t tell writing trap Thus, Cleeton struggles to bring tension into her narrative, and instead the moments that should be stifled with urgency fall flat, such as when Elisa and her family flee Cuba or when Luis is captured and tortured by the government In short, Cleeton shouldn t have to tell us that Marisol is filled with excitement, but rather Marisol s feelings should be evident by the words she chooses to describe her environment, and by the specific things she notices, thinks, and speaks.In both plot and dialog, Next Year in Havana is riddled with clich s and awkward sentences Cleeton s descriptive limitations are apparent from page one, where she describes Beatriz, Elisa s sister and Cleeton s most overdone character it s as though the entire airport holds its collective breath She s the beauty in the family and she knows it Even as Marisol comments on her anticipation of the journey that lies ahead, Cleeton describes it as venturing into murky waters and uncharted territory, a description we ve all read before She focuses so much on the mundane, feeling the need to account for every detail including the X ray machines at the airport and Marisol pulling her sunglasses out of her purse, all while glossing over and merely summarizing the most interesting parts of the story For instance, what was Marisol s reaction to her grandmother s last request As readers, we want to see this unfold step by step and feel the character s emotions with her.There are particular moments where you can tell Cleeton is a debut author by her inability to streamline her thoughts His initials are embroidered on the corner of the handkerchiefand I have no doubt his grandmother painstakingly embroidered his initials Then there are those moments when you can tell Cleeton has used a thesaurus to vary her word choice, for instance, using novel instead of new I have the novel experience of seeing true shock on my father s face She also draws a poorly planned metaphor between Luis family home and animal experimentation as Marisol remarks, The contrast between the vivisected home he shares with his wife, mother, and grandmother, and the tourists domain is stark Cleeton also tries a little too hard to incorporate the classics If helplessness is my Scylla, then the solution is most definitely Charybdis Some character s thoughts are even written to remind readers that we are reading, rather than letting us fully immerse ourselves in the characters thoughts by actually using ellipses that soundsRomantic Further, the sole purpose of the last chapter, which feels out of place and completely inappropriate, is to introduce Cleeton s second novel, which sounds doubly melodramatic.All in all, as a writer Cleeton should have been able to entice us with Elisa s seemingly magical life and make us sympathize with her innocence and vulnerability she s trapped in a world that she doesn t necessarily agree with, but still guiltily enjoys it We don t feel that as readers though, it s really difficult to sympathize with her and we don t really understand why Pablo loves her other than the fact that she s beautiful Similarly, we don t know why Luis takes a fancy with Marisol, he is appalled when learning she thought he was still married when he held her hand, so would he really fall in love with someone willing to advance on a married man We should have been allowed to feel Marisol s complex emotions, the pain mixed with wonder, lift up off the page simultaneously We should have been let into Marisol s true feelings about meeting her biological grandfather, whom she feels comfortable naming as such from the moment she sees him.It s clear the publisher intended to capitalize on Cuba as a trend and rushed the publication of Cleeton s work, and though this historical drama is intended to appeal to a commercial audience, being commercial and well written are not mutually exclusive outcomes We need look no further than Kristin Hannah s The Nightingale for proof of that Next Year in Havana had great potential to be a beautiful debut, but, instead, it remains a mere draft and leaves its readers unsatisfied. 4.5 stars, rounded up.As a voracious reader and reviewer, I m in favor of anything that promotes books and createsinterest in them So, I view the proliferation of celebrity book clubs as a good thing This is Reese Witherspoon s July BOMC selection And it s a very worthy one The book starts with the Perez family leaving Cuba after the success of the revolution It quickly switches to Marisol Ferrera returning to Cuba 58 years later with her grandmother s ashes Cleeton paints that picture of Cuba quickly and impressively Things we take for granted, everything from seat belts to fancy pots and pans, are missing, everything is in some state of disrepair.The story alternates between the grandmother Elisa s last year in Cuba as a nineteen year old and Marisol s return The book gives us a background of what it was like in that last year of Batista being in power Very few can afford the luxury of being political in Cuba And no one can afford the luxury of not being political in Cuba And, of course, it also shows you, through Marisol s eyes, how poorly that revolution turned out and how the people are still being oppressed I loved the contrast between the vision of the Cubans that left, living with memories, and those that stayed, living with facts Even though we share the same heritage, as hard as I search for commonalities between us, as much as I want to belong here, the differences are glaring I am Cuban and yet, I am not I could have done without the modern romance It seemed unnecessary to me But I loved how much Havana and Cuba was a love interest for all concerned Havana is a beautiful city shrouded in sadness, yet the remarkable thing is that it s almost as if the people didn t get the memo They laugh, and there s a jubilant quality to the air The Cubans probably have the least to laugh about compared to everyone around them, but they laugh the loudest I knew of the Revolution, but what I didn t know was the horrors that occurred after Castro came to power It gave me a new insight into why the Cubans in the US are so bitter Not just the loss of property, but the high loss of life We are Rome and this is the Coliseum What s interesting is that this book can be read as muchthan a romantic story or historical fiction It delves into the need to stand up to injustice Of not turning a blind eye to corruption if it doesn t immediately affect you The danger of being silent and creating deals with the devil My thanks to Berkeley Publishing that provided me with a copy of this novel. The Americans preach liberty, and freedom , and democracy at home, and practice tyranny throughout the rest of the worldGoodness, this book took my breath away.I do not think I have the ability to express how much I loved it, and the impact the story had on me There s so much to it, so much heart, soul and passion that leaped off those words and I was swept away at every moment I had no idea what to expect going into it, but it has become one of my favourite stories It was so enlightening and eye opening to read I loved getting to know the characters and how the political situation in Cuba formed not only the characters and their families, but the citizens in Cuba itself The historical aspect was beyond fascinating and Chanel Cleeton did a pretty perfect job at keeping my attention, because politics can be complex and hard to grasp But the political commentaries were told with so much ease and understanding and not only one narrative was pushed Every angle was looked at and I couldn t stop thinking My brain was going haywire and I loved it I loved getting to know what the country was going through during such a tumultuous time in their period and seeing how that shaped the people I was truly experiencing Cuba Now I want to read everything Chanel Cleeton writes And readon Latin America Ever since The Nightingale, I ve been wanting to readhistorical fiction novels Buddy reading with Sophie I m a sucker for Cuba It s a destination of choice for a number of reasons including its history, its traditions, the people and of course, its coffee.This story takes us through 2 story lines 1959 and decades later to 2017 With 2 love stories.After Marisol s grandmother passes, she has been left the daunting task of scattering her ashes over her home country, Cuba We read her story through love letters left behind.We are taken through the historical revolution and what it meant as a citizen to fight for Equality never mind democracy The moral dilemmas faced as a nation torn by radical leaders And of the Cubans whom were forced into exile with only their personal belongings on their backs having to leave their homeland and those who stayed with the hopes of change that never came to fruition.Great history fantastic writing 4 Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton is a 2018 Penguin Berkley publication Cuba 1958Elisa Perez, a sugar heiress, falls in love with a revolutionary But, their lives are so far removed from one another the relationship is one that seems doomed from the start Sure enough, she and Pablo are separated, and Elisa s family fled to America, never to return to their beloved Cuba Fast forward to 2017 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 Marisol s grandmother dies and to honor her last wishes, Marisol smuggles her ashes into Cuba But, arriving in Cuba is only the beginning of her adventure She must pick the perfect spot to spread her grandmother s ashes, so that end, she touches base with Elisa s best friend, hoping to gain some insight This is how she meets Luis, who escorts her around the city and helps her play amateur detective as she searches for Pablo, the love of Elisa s life However, Luis s job as a professor has him under scrutiny and Marisol has been watched since she first stepped foot in Cuba They begin to fall in love, playing a very dangerous game with their futures and maybe even their lives Eventually they will face a heartbreaking fork in the road where they will both have to make the most difficult choice of their lives This story was absolutely amazing It s epic, grand, sweeping, emotional, and heart wrenching The family saga is told in bold, rich details, so vivid I felt like I was there taking in all the sights and sounds of Cuba The atmosphere is heavy with foreboding and tension, danger always lurking in the shadows Love, at times, chooses the most inopportune moments to invade one s heart, but also has a knack for knowing just the right time and place, knowing somehow, someway that it s now or never Both scenarios come with hard choices and consequences The book is also very informative, giving readers an up close and personal look at what life is really like in Cuba While I did find all of this very interesting, at times the lectures or history lessons slowed the momentum of the story, but I still think readers need to absorb at least some of this information because this knowledge contributes to the high level of anguish and suspense that builds as the novel reaches its climax The world as we know it has died, and I do not recognize the one that has taken its place This history also serves as a cautionary tale in many ways, but it is also very complicated, with people making choices they believed were the right ones to make at the time, while others clung to the way of life they had established, suddenly finding themselves in exile You never know what s to come That s the beauty of life If everything happened the way we wished, the way we planned, we d miss out on the best parts, the unexpected pleasure Naturally, for me, the love stories plural is what brought out the strongest emotions in me Their stories parallel one another in many ways, with one being tragic and the other filled with danger but also one filled with hope for a better outcome and maybe even a better way of life for those living in Cuba 4 stars A familiar yet unique story, deeply evocative, and mesmerizing I devoured this book and enjoyed every sentence.The story is told in my favorite form of narration, alternating points of view and timelines The novel begins in the days when the Cuban revolution started and travels to the present times when Marisol visits Cuba to scatter her grandmother s ashes on the beloved land she left behind many years agoWe are silk and lace, and beneath them we are steelThe author did a great job at describing Cuba, the Cuba of then and the Cuba of now , its places, the land, I felt I was there with the characters and emotionally connected to the story from the beginning.I hope this is the first in a series because there are many secondary characters with interesting backstories that I want to get to know, specially, Beatriz story.Overall, this was an amazing book I highly recommend it. 1.99 Kindle sale, July 17, 2019 This is a moving dual timeline historical novel set in Cuba, both in modern times and during the 1958 59 period of Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution, with a couple of romantic subplots to spice things up Havana, Cuba the author specifically mentions how many old cars and vehicles are still on the streets most Cubans can t replace them with newer cars so they take loving care of them El Malec nCuba s past is seen through the eyes of Elisa in 1958 59, a young woman from a wealthy upper class family who starts a secret romance with a revolutionary who fights against the corrupt regime of Fulgencio Batista, alongside Fidel Castro and Che Guevara In the modern timeline, we have Elisa s Cuban American granddaughter Marisol, a journalist of light topics who hugely misses her recently deceased grandmother.The story begins with Elisa and her family leaving Cuba after Castro has taken control, then jumps back about a year to show how things got to that point Her chapters alternate with Marisol s, who takes a first time trip to Cuba to scatter her grandmother Elisa s ashes in the country she grew up in and loved, the place she always longed to return to Marisol stays with the family of Ana, her grandmother s best friend, unearths long hidden secrets, and finds her own romance that is fraught with difficulties due to the political turmoil Next Year in Havana is well written and VERY well researched, thought not quite as engaging for me as I d hoped I think that s because the story is told through the viewpoints of two women who are on the periphery of the action That, together with the focus on their romances, gives this book somewhat less heft than I expected Still, it s a great way to absorb some of the history of the Cuban Revolution, along with a deeply felt and sometimes heart wrenching story about love both romantic love and love for one s country.I also thought Chanel Cleeton, a Cuban American author, did an excellent job of showing the problems, shortcomings, hopes and desires of all of the different factions that play a role in the story While she s coming, very understandably, from an anti Castro position, she shows the injustice of the Batista government and the idealistic desires that many of the revolutionaries had She also acknowledges the limitations in viewpoint of the Cubans who immigrated to America, a nuance that impressed me Havana slum Next Year in Havana is a 2018 Reese s Book Club selection Many thanks to Berkley Publishing for the review copy Content notes some sexual content view spoiler including an out of wedlock pregnancy hide spoiler
Cleeton is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick Next Year in Havana and When We Left Cuba Originally from Florida, Chanel grew up on stories of her family s exodus from Cuba following the events of the Cuban Revolution Her passion for politics and history continued during her years spent studying in England where she earned 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 Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law She loves to travel and has lived in the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.
- 361 pages
- Next Year in Havana
- Chanel Cleeton
- 17 December 2019 Chanel Cleeton