Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Next Year in Havana

Chanel Cleeton

Alternating between Marisol's modern-day narrative in Cuba and her grandmother's life during the Cuban revolution, Cleeton uses one family's story to sensitively depict a people and a country torn apart by revolution.

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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.

READERS GUIDE INCLUDED


Advance Galley Reviews

I've been eager to read Chanel Cleeton's Next Year in Havana ever since I first saw the cover. I can never resist books with gorgeous dresses on the cover. Plus, after reading the synopsis, I was one hundred percent sure it was the book for me - I LOVE books with past and present POVs. The Result? Next Year in Havana is a stellar read! Beautifully blending together two POVs, Next Year in Havana is a book filled with hope, sadness, and revolution, as two young women - decades apart - fight for the ones they love and for a life filled with purpose as well as happiness. I didn't know much about Cuba and its politics going into Next Year in Havana. I knew of Fidel Castro, of course, as well as the harrowing times Cuba faced at his hands; however, I didn't realize the extent to which the people of Cuba suffered as well as the challenges they still face to this day. Simply put, Next Year in Havana was eye opening as well as thought provoking. Next Year in Havana provides much more than romance- it gives a detailed look into the politics surrounding the end of Batista's presidency and start of Castro's ruling. It also brings both sides into play - why the rich put their hope in Batista, why Castro's politics were so appealing at first to the masses, how families were torn apart over their differing views... It's not a simple black-and-white picture, as both main characters begin to see during their respective lives. More importantly, it shows that the bad doesn't end with Castro's death, as present day Marisol learns. People are still suffering the negatives that came with his ruling to this very day. Additionally, I enjoyed the descriptions of Havana. It came to life in front of my eyes, and more importantly, I loved seeing it through the main character’s perspectives. If I were to describe Marisol and Elisa, I would say that they are strong, determined, unapologetic, and passionate. Out of the two, Elisa's story resonated the most with me. When Elisa is first introduced, she appears to have it all – status, wealth, and a loving family. She’s always been the quiet, reserved sister – the one who stands to the side while her two beautiful, adventurous old sisters catch everyone’s attention. With the introduction of Pablo, a secretive yet alluring man she meets at a party, she begin to live a little more – stealing moments with him away from the eye’s of her family and society. With Pablo, Elisa also begins to see her home in a new light. For so long, she believed in what her parents believed in - Batista– but suddenly, she begins to wonder if there’s more than meets the eye. What I truly respected and admired the most about Elisa, however, was how far she would go to protect her family and the sacrifices she took in doing so. As secrets of her life began pouring out at the end, my heart broke for her. Yes, her family held onto their wealth and status and she had an “easy” life, but she gave up so much in the process – her best friend, her first love, her home, etc. She was truly an amazing woman. Marisol was also an interesting as well as loveable main character. It was interesting to see how her narrative shifted upon her arrival in Cuba. She’s grown up on the stories passed down from her great aunts and grandparents. However, as Marisol finds out, being in a country is very different than hearing about a country. In Cuba, she experiences a homecoming, a rebirth of sorts. She learns things about herself she never knew, and begins to see her grandmother in a new light – one that shocks yet awes her. She also experiences love like never before – love that makes her risk everything. In most ways, she was like her grandmother – fearless, loving, a believer in the glass-half-full not half-empty. There was only one aspect that I didn’t completely love: the romance. I felt that it could have been more fleshed out in both perspectives; however, at the end of the day, I appreciated and enjoyed the time and development Channel put into the main characters’ journeys, and if that meant less romance, I could live with it. In all, Next Year in Havana has introduced to me to a new favorite story as well as a new favorite author, and given that exciting twist at the end, I can’t wait to read Beatriz’s story.

Next Year in Havana was a wonderful read by Chanel Cleeton. The book tells the story of Elisa in 1958 and her granddaughter Marisol in 2017, but it also does a beautiful job of painting a picture of Cuba in the two different time periods - so much so that I can almost picture it. The characters are well developed, compelling and easily likeable. Cleeton does such a good job of weaving the characters, storylines and backdrop together that the book was hard to put down. I actually read the second half of the book in one sitting because I was so wrapped up in the story. While this could be viewed as a romance novel it feels more like a story about a momentous time in two women's lives connected to a land they consider home - and it just so happens that a man is there to make them look that much more closely at how they feel about their homeland and what it represents, and see it from a different point of view than how they might perceive it otherwise. The only part of this book that seemed out of place was the introduction of a character later in the book than what made sense to me. I actually had to scroll back and make sure I hadn't missed anything because it seemed like I should have already been aware of them. All in all this was a fantastic read and I can't wait to read Cleeton's next story in this series!

In Next Year In Havana, the narration moves between Marisol and her grandmother, Eliza Perez. The reader is presented with historic Cuba with its political upheaval during the revolution and Cuba as it is today in 2017 through the eyes of the two protagonists. The beautifully detailed descriptions of Havana and the countryside surrounded by the vast blue sea serve as a backdrop to the turmoil of the revolution contrasted with the forbidden love and romances experienced by Eliza and Marisol. The author not only presented the political history of Cuba but captivated my interest with her rich descriptions, vivid characters, mysterious secrets, and suspense.

This is a awesome start to a whole new fierce series. These sisters will have your blood up and you'll still be thinking about them days later. Loved every minute of this novel.

I really, really enjoyed this book. Once I started reading, I couldn't put it down. It's certainly not your average light romance. This book is beautifully written, poignant, and emotional. I'll admit that I didn't know much about Cuba's history before reading this book aside from the basic common knowledge, so it was fascinating to learn about the history of a beautiful, beloved country that has been in turmoil for many, many years. It's hard to imagine the pain that both the exiles and the people currently living in Cuba must go through, but this book is a wonderful testament to their strength and, for the exiles in particular, their unflinching hope for "next year in Havana." I highly, highly recommend this book. I can't say enough good things about it.

Next Year in Havana is a story about Cuba, past and present, and the people who love it. Although there is a romantic storyline, the true love affair is with Cuba itself. I was very young when the revolution occurred so I only know what I have read in history books. This book fleshes out the story through exiles, people who remained, and the revolutionaries. It seems the author has more books planned following the Perez family. I look forward to reading the next book. Thank you First to Read for giving me the opportunity to preview this book.

I was fortunate to have early access to Next Year in Havana through the First to Read program, and it is definitely an enthralling read! The storyline centers around activity in Cuba during two time frames (1958 and 2017) and two main characters, Elisa and Marisol. Elisa, whose story is set in the fifties, is Marisol’s grandmother and she is dramatically embroiled in a passionate love affair with a young revolutionary on the cusp of Castro’s takeover. The two love deeply even though their romance is forbidden. Tragedy strikes and Elisa and her family must flee their homeland and seek refuge in the United States. The novel alternates between the drama that has befallen Elisa with the narrative that involves Marisol in present-day Cuba. Marisol has travelled to the island to honor her grandmother’s final request to spread her ashes in her former homeland. While there, Marisol falls for another young activist, Luis, whose life is in danger, and she eventually goes to great lengths in order to save him, but at what cost?

Every once in a while I start a book and from page one I am completely enamored with the every aspect of the book - the plot, the characters, the setting, and the relationships. Next Year in Havana is this type of book; as I read, I was constantly ruminating about how fabulous the book was. I love that feeling, and to me, it is the sign of an exceptionally good book. Next Year in Havana is told in a dual timeline format, alternating between the late 1950’s and present day. Both story lines are equally compelling, and Chanel Cleeton artfully incorporates both the beauty and history of Cuba into her tale about courage in the face of family and loss. Cleeton’s family fled Cuba in 1967, and the personal connection and love she feels for the country are reflected in her tale. Cuba is a fascinating place to me, and stories set there always appeal to me. Next Year in Havana stands out because the author effectively integrates a significant amount of Cuban history while crafting a beautiful tale of family, love, and enduring relationships. I had never really understood the schism between those who left Cuba after Fidel Castro came into power versus those that remained. Without taking sides, Cleeton engenders sympathy for both groups and the difficult choices that those individuals had to make when choosing which path to take. I was curious about the title of the book when I began reading and thankfully she explains it: “As exiles, … hope is embedded in the very essence of our soul. ‘Next Year in Havana. It’s the toast we never stop saying, because the dream of it never comes true.’ ” What a beautiful tribute to Cuba that decades later those exiled still hope year after year that they can one day return, and how incredibly sad that it has still not come to pass. Sadly, I think it is easy for Americans to forget how lucky we are to live in a country where freedom is taken for granted. Reading about present day Cuba is scary: internet and cell phone coverage is scarce, the government controls what information is disseminated, food shortages are common, and retribution for speaking out can be punishable by death. The reminder is helpful in our current political environment; freedom and equality are worth protecting, and it is important to speak out against those attempting to infringe on those rights. Next Year in Havana is spectacular. I loved the entire book and was thrilled with the small surprise at the end. I had an inkling that the surprise might be coming and was glad when it worked out that way. I struggled a bit with the resolution of the present day story line but am not sure that there was any other way for it to end; it certainly did not impact my view of the book. The cover of Next Year in Havana deserves to be mentioned also; it is simply stunning and fits the book beautifully. I received this book to read and review. All opinions are my own.

I literally could NOT stop reading this book. I received an advanced copy from First To Read and walked around with my reading device in my hand bumping in to things. This is one of the best love stories I have read in a very long time. The descriptions of the sights were so beautifully written I could see Havana when I closed my eyes. I was so captivated that I had to put the book down a few times to collect myself from the sheer excitement of Elisa's journey as well as the sad reminders that a Revolution was taking place around her. What life must have been for those affected is a very tragic thought. This was also a reminder to all of the struggles of past and present Cuba. I could read this book over and over.

 


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