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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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.


Advance Galley Reviews

Next Year in Havana remind me so much of The German Girl. Two stories interchanged between an older relative and a younger relative. Next Year in Havana however is also different. I enjoyed Elsa and Marisol’s stories. This a is a good read. I’m glad I read it. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys history, romance and international travel.

I was so glad to have a chance to read Next Year in Havana. I love books with dual storylines and thought both stories were compelling in this book. I really enjoyed the romance aspects as well as the unique setting in Cuba.

I loved this book. The connection between grandmother and granddaughter is almost mirror image. Elisa passes away and wishes for Marisol to take her back to her homeland. She finds love in a rebel, just like Elisa. Elisa and her family live in a turbulent time and then things get worse and the family must flee to America. The recounting of Elisa's life and the way she lived through losing her love and brother and the country that she loved. Marisol found new family and a new outlook on the way the people in Cuba live.

I love stories that have different characters in different timelines and show how they are related or necessary to the plot of the modern timeline. This is definitely one of the books where it's well done. There's a lot to like about this book. The characters are great, the plot is engaging. It's a great book definitely worth reading.

This book was a great book. It really has me wanting to go to cube. And have my own fun.

Unfortunately, due to a family emergency, I was not able to read this book before it expired. I hope to pick it up sometime soon.

4.5 I enjoyed this book, but never finished it! The download expired before I finished! I will buy to finish! Yes, a great read, just wish I knew what happened!

My Rating: 4.5 stars I was enamored with this book from the very first page and found it very difficult to put down after I started reading it! I will admit that I was reluctant to read this one at first, as I don’t typically read romance novels and being that most of this author’s previous works were contemporary romances, I was worried that this would be along the same lines -- however I decided to give this one a try, as I was drawn in by the historical aspect and also curiosity with the setting being in Cuba. It turns out I was right to give this one a chance, as the romance aspect actually took a backseat to the history and also family dynamics, turning this into a wonderfully written work of historical fiction rather than a run-of-the-mill romance trope. Alternating between two timelines, the story is narrated first by Elisa Perez in the late 1950s, as Cuba is in the midst of a revolution led by Fidel Castro against president Batista, and then later by Elisa’s granddaughter Marisol Ferrara, nearly 60 years later, as she travels to Cuba for the first time to fulfill her grandmother’s dying wish for her ashes to be scattered in the country that always had a special place in her heart. As we accompany Marisol on a journey that is as much about discovering her roots, her heritage, as it is about coming to terms with the death of the beloved grandmother who raised her, we are given insight into the history of Cuba – more specifically Havana – and what life is like for its people both in modern day as well as back during the revolutionary period, in Elisa’s time. The juxtaposition of the two versions of Cuba – Marisol’s romanticized version passed on to her from family stories and memories versus the ‘real’ version of the Cuban people’s perpetual struggle and sacrifice – provided an eye-opening look at a country that embodied both beauty and hope as well as devastation and suffering. The disparity was so jarring at times that it really made me think about how grateful I am to live in a country that values freedom and at the same time, how so many things are taken for granted. I was absolutely humbled by passages such as this one, which was both a powerful and timely reminder of how lucky we are living in the times and parts of the world that we do: “I can’t fathom living in a world where you have no rights, where there is no oversight, no accountability. The United States isn’t perfect; there’s injustice everywhere I turn. But there’s also a mechanism that protects its citizens – the right to question when something is wrong, to speak out, to protest, to be heard. It doesn’t always work, sometimes the system fails those it was designed to protect, but at least that opportunity – the hope of it – exists.” This was just one of many thought-provoking passages in this book — so many in fact that I found myself highlighting quite a bit and also stopping to reflect on some of the issues that were brought up. In terms of the writing, I am blown away by how well-written this book was – the skill with which the author was able to weave all the historical details into the narrative yet still present such a compelling, heartfelt story with wonderfully layered characters was, to me, beyond impressive. The writing was descriptive and beautiful, but most importantly, it was incredibly atmospheric, which I feel is one of the things that sets this book apart from some of the other works of historical fiction I’ve read recently. The author Chanel Cleeton did a wonderful job of establishing a strong sense of place and time, so much so that I felt like I was transported to Havana myself and was truly able to get a feel for the city and Cuba as a whole, its inhabitants and their way of life. There were so many topics that the book touched on – social injustice, economic inequality and instability, political strife, love, family, sacrifice, etc. – but the parts that drew me in the most were the details about Cuba’s history and culture, especially the emotions and conflict surrounding what it meant to be Cuban for those who fled the country and live in exile yet were still forever connected to their heritage versus those who stayed behind, whether willingly or unwillingly, and what they had to endure as a result. As mentioned in the book, much of Cuban history is political and so inevitably there were a lot of passages about politics throughout the story, yet not once did I feel that this book was trying to push a particular political message or viewpoint. To me, this is a testament to the author’s skill as a writer, as she was able to incorporate the politics piece in a way that impartially presented both sides, allowing us as the readers to determine for ourselves which (if any) side we related more to. I also appreciated the fact that the author, who herself is Cuban-American, wove in elements of her own family history and experiences fleeing from Cuba after the revolution, as her passion for her heritage and her country’s history truly did shine through. Overall, I definitely enjoyed this one and learned a lot from it. Highly recommended for historical fiction fans, especially those interested in learning more about Cuba. Received ARC from Berkley Books via Penguin First to Read program

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 clichés 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 handkerchief [. . .] and 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 sounds . . . Romantic.” 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.

Next Year in Havana is told in a dual time line by two different voices. Marisol is traveling to Cuba in the present day to spread her deceased grandmother’s ashes in the country she loved. Marisol’s grandmother, Elisa, tells her story beginning with her families flight from Cuba in1959. There are many twists and turns to the novel, some romance and a lot of history. My favorite part of the book was learning about the Cuban Revolution and what life was like for the people. I learned so much and I still crave to learn more. My heart aches for the people who left and also for the ones that chose to stay. What a hard choice they had to make. I have added Next Year in Havana to my list of favorite books. I highly recommend it if you are a fan of historical fiction. It is a five star read! Thank you to the author, Chanel Cleeton and Penguin First to Read for an advanced copy of such a great book.

Title: Next Year in Havana Author: Chanel Cleeton Pages: 400 Genre: historical fiction Is this part of a series? No. Publish Date: February 6th, 2018 Summary: Cuba, under Batista, was a wonderous place- if you had the money. Balls and dances, shopping, beautiful debutantes. No one understood luxury like the Perez family- daughters of a sugar magnate. There’s Beatriz- gorgeous and intelligent with just a tinge of her twin brother’s rebellious streak. Isabel, sweet, lovely and in love. Maria, the youngest and pampered, protected. Then there’s Eliza. At nineteen she is beyond beautiful, loyal and proud. When a night out strikes up a meeting between her and a revolutionary, her life shifts. Pablo is against all she is, and yet his idea for Cuba, his passion, draws her. First love, torn apart by war and circumstances. When the Perez family flees after Batista’s escape no one truly believes it will be forever. That’s the toast. Next year in Havana…after everything goes back to normal… after it’s safe….. after Fidel dies. Decades later, Marisol goes to Cuba for the first time- presumably to write a travel article, but also on a final quest for the grandmother she loved so much. There she meets Luiz, grandson of her grandmother’s best friend Anna. The new Cuba, separate from her grandmother’s stories, both intrigues and horrifies her. Here, too, she learns about a part of her grandmother she never knew- a man and past. As Eliza’s story unfolds for Marisol, Cuba too shows itself- what it was, what it is, and what it could be. My thoughts: This book was so many things for me. It showed a strong, loving family going through hardships and how the sisters came together. A land on the brink of revolution- the ideals of the young that sometimes go astray. First love in all it’s confusing glory. Above all, loyalty- to country, to family, to oneself. The gorgeous (and sometimes heart rending) descriptions of Eliza’s Cuba left me spellbound. I loved the characters, their strength and pain. The book had an easy flow from narrator to narrator, time to time. This is a book one loses themselves in. It gave me hope, despair, and then cautious optimism. As one that never studied Cuba’s history, it was interesting without being overwhelming. You were there- you felt the fear, the pride, the injustice. The homesickness. I finished this book days ago and I still feel it’s pull. I especially liked how Marisol and Luiz reacted to one another, and a look into the “new revolution” as it were. Luiz’s feelings of pride in a country that beats him down, his sense of belonging and his yearning to shape the new Cuba spoke to me. For me, this was a five star book. On the Adult content scale, there was violence, language and some sexual content. For the violence alone I would give it a six. I was lucky enough to receive an eARC of this book from First to Read in exchange for an honest review. My thanks!

I highly recommend this entertaining read. Marisol takes off for Cuba with her grandmother's ashes and finds herself on a family "roots" quest. Her grandmother and her parents were forced to flee the incoming regime in the late 1950's, They were wealthy sugar industry owners. The story of grandma's love of her life and the discovery of the identity of Marisol's mother's biological father make for a great story line. Marisol falls for her own "bad" boy and has to make difficult choices. My thanks to the author and the Penguin First to Read program for a compllimentary copy.

I really enjoyed this book and had a hard time putting it down! Not knowing much about Cuba, it was interesting to learn more about the culture and the political climate of that country back in the 1950's and today. If you like reading stories both set in the past and have a present-day narrative, then I would recommend this book.

Historical fiction is not a genre I reach for on a regular basis, but this book and a few others I have read recently is making me think I should read more. This is a dual timeline story which revolves around Elisa in the late 1950's who is part of a wealthy family in Cuba and her granddaughter Marisol in 2017. Cleeton shifts between the two timelines with ease and each of their stories were equally engaging. I don't know much about Cuba and it's history so this novel gave some insight. There was a nice balance of romance with political/cultural observations. I did think the romance between Marisol and Luis moved rather quickly and my interest did wane in the last 1/4 of the book, but, all in all, this was a rather good read. There was a preview of Cleeton's next book which follows the character Beatriz and I am very much looking forward to it.

Next Year in Havana is a beautiful book. I enjoyed the dual perspectives on Cuba from Batista’s era and the current time frame. Elisa and Marisol were engaging characters and it was fascinating to see these two women learn more about Cuban politics and economic situations. I enjoyed the romance between Elisa and Pablo, but felt like Marisol’s love story was a little insta-love. Elisa and Pablo were a little impulsive in their love story, but considering the time period and that it occurred during a revolution, it felt more believable to me. I enjoyed learning more about Cuban history and the different twists in the story. I also enjoyed the hopefulness of how their stories ended.

As a person who does not typically like any historical fiction books, I would have never guessed how in love with this book I would be. Next Year in Havana has reached in my lists of books read, the highest possible spot. I haven't read much historical fiction in a long time but I will be reading more. A tale of forbidden love in a city where loving the wrong person can get you killed, Next Year in Havana tells two alternating stories of love and loss; Elisa Perez's revolutionary romance, and Marisol Ferrera's whirlwind romance that all started on her trip to Havana. Elisa Perez is the daughter of a wealthy sugar baron in Havana 1958, she has lived a life a being a lady and getting what she wants. But, at the age of 19, her world is changing, the president has fled the country and Fidel Castro takes charge, sending the country into chaos. Elisa has one thing to look forward to in the chaos of Havana, her revolutionary boyfriend Pablo. Marisol's grandmother Elisa has died and in her will, she asks for Marisol to take her ashes to Havana and spread them there. Marisol makes the trip to Cuba as a journalist writing an article on tourism in Cuba. She spends her week with Elisa's best friend Ana Rodriguez. She hopes to find the right spot to lay Elisa to rest by learning more about her. Little did she know that Elisa had many secrets she never told Marisol. Along the way to find Elisa's final resting place Marisol slowly falls in love with a man she would never have expected. Giving unexpected turnouts and some surprising plot twists this is a historical fiction book that deserves to never die.

Next Year in Havana is stunningly beautiful. I was mesmerized with this story from the very start. It is the first historical fiction I've read based in Havana and I loved it! Chanel Cleeton's other titles appear to be romance novels, which is not my thing, so I was a little surprised to love this book. She should definitely write more historical fiction. Marisol is raised by her Cuban born grandmother Elisa. She grows up with the customs of Cuba as though she was there and not in Miami. Elisa was forced to flee Cuba with her family when Castro took over and since then has dreamed that next year will be the year that she can safely return. After Elisa passes away Marisol learns that she has requested in her will to have her ashes spread in Cuba. As a journalist Marisol gets a work visa and visits Cuba for the first time. When she arrives she expects to find the Cuba she's heard stories about and celebrated all of her life. What she finds is a country still under communist rule with citizens who are afraid to go against the grain and losing everything including their life. Marisol stays with Elisa's best friend growing up who stayed in Cuba with her family. Her mansion is a shell of its former glory. To make ends meet she rents out part of the home and runs a restaurant. Elisa is confronted with the poor conditions and limited supplies of the country she thought she knew so well. After being given a box that Elisa had buried before fleeing Cuba Marisol finds that she may not have known her grandmother as well as she thought. Elisa is left with questions, but is warned that in Cuba the past is best left alone or you may end up paying a price. Next Year in Havana is such a good book! I highly recommend if you like historical fiction that this book is a must read on your 2018 TBR list.

I really enjoyed this novel. I love the dual perspective, from Elisa in Cuba during 1958, and her granddaughter present day. It was a fascinating narrative on the Cuba revolution and the communist nation it became. It all tied together nicely as a historical romance, and although there were not many plot twists, the characters were very appealing. Would recomend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction or romance.

I’m an absolute sucker for historical fiction, especially historical fiction with dual narratives, and this book did not disappoint in either regard. I was learning without even realizing, due to the engrossing story and extensive history. The writing was beautiful and descriptive without ever becoming tedious, and covered a topic I knew so little about – Cuban history and culture. This story contained elements that anyone could relate to in one way or another; whether that be loss, struggling to find a sense of identity and place in the world, love and the family ties that bind us, what freedom and the right to fight for those freedoms means to different people, and upheaval during uncertain times and political turmoil. This book transcends so many different genres and I found that I was unable to put it down.

Thank you to First to Read for providing me with an advanced reader's copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I thoroughly enjoyed this historical fiction novel. This is a dual time period storyline taking place in Cuba and the United States during the late 1950's and the present. The two connecting storylines are both strong with good character development. Cuba's political history is a major plot theme and was enlightening for me. I was drawn in from the first page and eagerly read the story straight through!

As a lover of historical fiction, I can say that this is going to be one of my favorite books this year. I admittedly know very little about Cuba, the Cuban revolution, and how the United States fits into that story. Chanel Cleeton, does a masterful job of weaving together her knowledge and research about Cuba into a story filled with rich character development and scenic descriptions that transport her readers where she wants them. I did not see some of the twists and turns coming, although in retrospect, i should have- and this alone speaks to how Cleeton encourages her readers to lose themselves in the story and be swept away. Join us on February 6th and allow your self to be whisked away to Havana, where you will gaze upon the bluest waters in the Caribbean, feel the salt air whip your hair around you as you cruise in a retro convertible, and listen to the waves crash along the Malecon.

A very fun historical romance. Cleeton avoids the awkwardness that most historical novels suffer from when they try to insert their research into the historical story. Instead, Cleeton has a modern storyline in which our beautiful, intrepid heroine tours Cuba with a sexy local history professor who gives her the history of the revolution while caressing her sun-kissed skin. Lovely plan. Meanwhile, she connects to her grandmother's past, as she fled the revolution. A fun romp through history while the characters struggle with their Cuban identity, whether to go or to stay, the suffering natives and the longing diaspora. I got a copy to review from First to Read.

This was an excellent book that portrayed the beauty of Cuba as well as the struggles that it has faced. The use of 2 story lines showed both past and present Cuba which was enjoyable to read. It shows the strength of family ties and the connection to where our families come from.

Next Year in Havana really opened my eyes to what happened to Cuba. I was rusty on the History of Cuba and I wish some of that was explained more along with the roles of the Historical characters. The author did a nice job of adding what it is like in current Cuba with Marisol's journey. It was hard not to fall in love with the characters and found my self deeply engrossed with their lives. The book was hard to put down.

Next Year in Havana is a story told in dual narratives. One story is told by Elisa Perez whose family fled Cuba in the early 60's. The other story line is told by Marisol, Elisa's granddaughter, who has come back to Cuba after the death of Fidel Castro. I thought both story lines were well done and captured the tensions present in both time periods. I especially liked that Marisol's story was so current and reflected a lot of things I saw and felt during a trip to Cuba in late 2016. This book was hard to put down!

Next year in Havana is rich with the history of Cuba and filled with gorgeous details of the country. Alternating between 1958/1959 and present day, the story follows the early life of Elisa, a wealthy Cuban Sugar baron daughter, and her granddaughter Marisol, who returns to fulfill her grandmother's wish to be laid to rest in Cuba. As Marisol searches for her Grandmother's final resting spot, she becomes caught up finding out the true history of her grandmother's final months in Cuba. A time that was marked by love, secrecy, revolution, and heartbreak. Along the way Marisol also becomes involved with a man who has strong convictions about the state of affairs in Cuba - and begins to see and experience the consequences of this. Cuba has always seemed, to me, to be such an exotic place and so I found it fascinating to read about the revolution through the eyes of Elisa, Pablo, and their family/friends. The disparity between the wealthy ruling class and the poor, the consequences of the revolution, and the lasting effect of Fidel Castro and his regime - as told through those who endured the revolution and those who in modern day still are dealing with made for an incredible read. I found myself more drawn to Elisa's story then that of her granddaughter Marisol. Perhaps because Elisa found herself in a very precarious situation and was able to make hard decisions and continue to move forward despite this. She was one amazing woman! I also really enjoyed getting to know Ana, Elisa's childhood best friend. Through her eyes we are able to see the spirit of those who remained in Cuba - and how they survived through the years following the revolution. I absolutely loved this beautiful book and flew through it in two days. It is a gorgeous historical fiction story with romance and love - but at it's heart is a story of what we are willing to do for ourselves, our families, and our country.

After reading some of the reviews about Next Year in Havanna I find that I agree and disagree with them. First of all, this was so much more than a love story or romance. Ms Cleeton portrays a reality that few of us can imagine. The fear and loss is heartbraking. My brother-in-law was born in Cuba in 1953 and he was sent to Spain alone, with valuables sewn into his clothing. He was eventually reunited with his family in Chicago but his loathing for Cuba remains today. I believe that the book gives us a very good idea of what went on in the late 50's and today. For anyone interested in historical fiction especially when it is tied to current time, this is a must read.

A sobering look at Cuba at the time of the revolution and currently. Who left, who stayed? Why were those decisions made? How did those decisions impact future generations? Ms. Chanel Cleeton manages to pack those questions into this novel and wrap them around two love stories stretching across generations. It is a lot going on here but the novel hums along at a good pace, but it teases you and doesn’t fully deliver on the expected fireworks. The Perez family is fleeing Cuba as Castro is seizing power. The Perez family was part of the elite and their lives will not be the same in Castro’s Cuba, so they pack up and head to Florida. Many welcomed Castro’s regime, others couldn’t flee fast enough. What Ms. Cleeton has done here is examined the politics of revolution and the impact it had on families by highlighting the Perez family, particularly daughter Elisa, who is one of the main narrators and her granddaughter Marisol who visits Cuba for the first time in her 30’s to spread her grandmother’s ashes. Elisa was a bit of a rebel growing up, and never fully embraced her status as one of the elites of Havana, this led her to engage in a risky relationship with one of Castro’s freedom fighters unbeknownst to her family, who maintained close ties to President Batista, until he fled the country. Elisa through conversations with her freedom fighting friend is somewhat conflicted about change. She doesn’t want to go, but realizes the danger in staying. Fast forward to present day and Elisa has passed away and has charged her granddaughter with the task of carrying her ashes to her beloved homeland, Cuba. Marisol is both excited and melancholy about her trip to Cuba. She has heard so much from her grandmother about Cuba, however she has to reconcile the Cuba of her mind with the real Cuba she encounters. Through letters that her grandmother left with a childhood friend for Marisol to one day discover, the story of Elisa gets fully flushed out and Marisol discovers some uncomfortable secrets about her grandmother, whom she thought she knew so well. There were points where I thought a Big Bang was coming, but it just didn’t happen. Things just kind of moved along and the debate of leaver vs. loyalist is given a fair mostly balanced treatment. I would recommend this book, and readers will come away with a more nuanced understanding of the exile community as well as those who cast their lot on the side of the revolution. Those decisions couldn’t have been easy and many remained regretful for staying, some for leaving. Well done.

This book is about two women and the island of Cuba. Elisa is a young woman of a privileged family in Havana. Castro’s rebels are fighting the Batista government. She does not think too much about what Castro is fighting for, but then she and her sisters sneak out of the house to go to a party and she meets a man. It is 2017. Marisol travels to Cuba on the pretense of writing a travel piece on Cuba, but she is really there to spread her grandmother Elisa’s ashes. While she’s there, she finds a part of her grandmother’s live that she hid from her family. Of the two stories in the book, I enjoyed Elisa’s the best. This may be because I learned about what Castro’s revolution meant to different people in Cuba more than what is written in history books. One interesting thing I learned was that both the Batista and Castro regimes started with the hope of fair governance for all of the people of Cuba and both became authoritarian regimes that only benefited the elites.

I loved reading the Elisa sections of the book, about what life was like living in Havana during the Cuban revolution. The opening scene where Elisa and her family are leaving Cuba in 1959 is so powerful and emotional - and the scenes like that, where Cleeton SHOWS instead of TELLS, are by far what make this book worth reading. I know the details of the revolution, politics and modern-day struggles in Cuba are necessary to this story, but the fact that they're mostly presented as monologues by various characters lessens their impact for us readers.

I LOVED this book. It's my favorite kind of story---part historical fiction, part present-day narrative. It reminded me of Beatriz Williams' books but with a Cuban flair. I knew very little about Cuba before reading this book. I knew only of Fidel Castro, but even then in the vaguest of terms. I knew that he ruled with an iron fist and that he was feared. But what I didn't know was what it was like for Cubans under Batista's reign and during the Revolution. What I didn't know was that Cubans still do not freedom of speech or what could happen to Cubans if they bucked the regime. Aside from Cuba being slightly more open to visitors following Fidel's death, it doesn't seem a whole lot has changed. Once prosperous families now live in poverty, barely scraping by. A lot of wealthy Cubans fled to the US once Batista left because they were no longer safe. The picture of Havana is dim. I've seen photos of Havana on travel sites and it's all colors and old cars, but the fear remains amongst its residents. The juxtaposed views of Cuba from Elisa's POV and then her granddaughter Marisol's eyes 60 years later was extremely effective. Cleeton's lyrical prose brought the images, the emotions, the turmoil of Cubans' daily existences to life in bold detail. "Next Year in Havana" is part historical fiction, part love story, and all heart. Read it. You won't be able to put it down.

Romantic. Heartbreaking. Suspenseful. Beautiful. Heartwarming. I am pretty sure I read this moving through almost every emotion I have, and I am 100% sure I did it fighting back both tears of joy and sorrow. The writing style is just, beautiful. Everything flows so well, and just really puts you into the story. You can almost see yourself where the characters are. This is a story of Marisol, a Cuban-American. She was born in the US, but raised by her Grandmother Elisa, who was exiled from Cuba at the rise of Castro. Upon Elisa's passing, she leaves in her will a request that once Castro is no longer in power and the boarders are opened,, she would like her ashes spread in Cuba, and that Marisol must be the one to do it. A few months later when Castro dies, Marisol is off to fulfill her grandmother's request. Marisol leaves with a mixture of excitement and fear, being sent off with warnings of how different the Cuban government is from that of the United States. The trip is bitter sweet, as everything reminds her of her grandmother, but she is determined to find the place that feels perfect for the ashes. Along the way she meets people from her families past, who welcome her as family. She also uncovers some very deep family secrets...and realizes just how bad things were for her family, and how bad they still are for the Cubans who chose to stay behind. I can't express how beautiful I thought this book was.

Cleeton weaves a mesmerizing tale of two women, one Elisa Perez, daughter of a sugar baron in pre-revolution Cuba whose family escaped Cuba in 1959, and the other Elisa's grand-daughter who travels to Cuba to fulfill her grandmother's last wish. It is the story of a family torn apart by revolution, and truly a love story for each of the women will leave apart of themselves in Cuba The stories are told clearly, the locations so real you can reach out and touch them and the characters are totally believable, full bodied and three dimensional. It is a wonderful book.. I am all ready looking forward to Cleeton's next book about Elisa's younger sister Beatriz! Highly recommended!

I enjoyed this tale of present day Cuba and Cuba on the verge of revolution. I thought the author did a very good job balancing the stories of Elisa in 1959 and her granddaughter Marisol in present day, balancing the differences between Cubans who stayed and Cubans who fled, and the effects on their descendants. In present day Miami, Marisol Ferrera travels back to Cuba to spread the ashes of her grandmother, Elisa, who fled Cuba in 1959, following the revolution, her prosperous family no longer welcome there. In Cuba, she meets Luis, the grandson of her grandmother’s best friend, Ana, whose family stayed behind. Through these two we learn about the differences between those who stayed, those who fled, and how neither had any choice. I think this book could make a very good movie, with two very compelling narratives.

I loved this book. My knowledge of Cuban history had gotten cloudy over time, so meeting Elisa in 1958 living a privileged life in Cuba with her family and their very different perspectives was a real learning experience. Present-day Marisol grew up in Florida seeing Cuba through her grandmother's eyes. When she returns to take her grandmother's ashes to her beloved country, the true nature of Cuban life and its continuing struggles opens her eyes to a much more complicated past. The contrasts between its beauty, the politics seething beneath the surface, and the economic struggles that face Cubans opens her eyes to her family's difficult past. A great story of turbulent times, complicated love, and an uncertain future.

I was admittedly curious about Cuba's history since this is not something that I knew much about. I was drawn into the facts and the emotion of the story told through the viewpoints of both the granddaughter and grandmother. I really felt for both of them. They fell in love and were forced to leave their loved ones behind due to politics, or risk losing their position in society. It is immensely sad that people had to face these type of choices. This was definitely a compelling read that I will suggest to others.

I love reading historical fiction as a way to learn something new about different cultures or time periods. This book is full of information, and looks at both sides of the Cuban revolution. The historical aspect of the book was great. The romantic parts of the book was a little too insta love for me, for both relationships in 1959 and 2017. But, overall, I'd definitely pick up the next book in the series.

I really enjoyed this book from the very beginning. There is so much about life in Cuba after the revolution that I knew nothing about. This was very informative while simultaneously telling the story of two young women at various stages In history. The story of a young woman juxtaposed to the story of her grandmother as a young woman was very thoughtful and entertaining. I recommend this book.

Next Year in Havana was fantastic! It pulled me in from the beginning with its lush language and well-researched story. I learned so much about the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s. Although there are definitely elements of romance to the book, it will also appeal to those who love historical fiction. This was a very well done novel, and I cannot wait to read the next ones in the series.

Thank you First to Read for the opportunity to read such a fantastic book. I am a hispanophile and love visiting, speaking to people in Spanish and learning about their cultures. This story goes back and forth between the past and the present and tells a wonderful tale of two women who were both deeply affected by Cuba, but in very different ways. Elisa Perez was born in Cuba and when her family had to flee the country due to political problems, they ended up in Miami. Several decades later after Elisa's death, her granddaughter Marisol, who was also raised by her, returns to Cuba for her first visit and to spread the ashes of her beloved grandmother Elisa. Her journey brings her back to Cuba that sadly holds a lot of the difficulties that Elisa and her family faced when they lived there, while at the same time, brings a lot of joy into the life of Marisol too. The reader will learn a lot about the history of Cuba, the ups and downs as well as a journey into the lives of the Cuban people, both past and present. I absolutely loved this book and had a hard time putting it down.

Next Year In Havana tells the story of a young woman who returns to Havana after her Grandmother passes away. Her grandmother and her family we're forced to leave after Castro took control of Cuba and her dying wish was to have her ashes returned to her native soil. The book very carefully weaves the story of Marisol in present day Cuba and Elisa, her grandmother, in 1958. Marisol discovers her grandmother had a lost love and as she begins to dig deeper unravels a mystery life that her grandmother led. The two women's stories begin to parallel each other as Marisol meets a man fighting for Cuba to become free. I enjoyed the book immensely. It bought to the forefront Cuba and it's people and the story of the revolution which I knew little about. Truly enjoyable. Special thanks to the First to Read program for allowing me the opportunity to read an advanced copy.

Oh my gosh, this book pulled me in from the first paragraph until the last. Her descriptions of Havana as Marisol left the airport had me there with her. I learned so much about the Cuban revolution from the perspective of the families who lived through it. I thought her ability to do comparisons of how it affected those families who left and those who stayed without making the reader feel they had to take sides, was flawless. And yet, while giving us 2 romance stories that intertwined with each other across 3 generations, it never felt like a romance. We were shown not only the beauty of a country and their people but also the brutality that can occur overnight in an unstable political climate without the book feeling like a boring political rant. There were a few surprising twist towards the end of the book, that added to the overall story and made it even more enjoyable. I look forward to reading more about the Perez family and their fight to survive in a new world. Thanks to Penguin Random House First to Read program for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Next Year in Havana It was as if I was reading about my own life and family … I was a little apprehensive about this book because of Chanel Cleeton’s usual genre. However, being a Cuban exile I love to read any book set in Cuba. I was pleasantly surprised to figure out that this book is more historical fiction. However, it is still a romance story - between the Cuban people and their country. The story of Cuban families ripped away from their homes and the story of the those that stayed and the sacrifices made by both. Cleeton does a masterful job encapsulating the history of Cuba from the 1950’s to the present and how it has affected both the people that supported Castro and those that didn’t. Having recently visited Cuba, partly to return my mother’s ashes, I can attest that Cleeton captured very well the bittersweet of returning to a country so much changed and yet so much the same. Wondering if you can truly be Cuban if you haven’t experienced the hardships of those that stayed. I love how she truly conveys the essence of the Cuban people … proud and forever hopeful. I found myself highlighting several passages, exclaiming “Yes, yes!” I highly recommend this book if you want an insight into Cuba and its people as part of an interesting and well told story. I immensely enjoyed this book and look forward to others in this storyline.

I loved the contrast between Cuba in the 1950s and now. I remember hearing about Cuba and looking at the few pictures available. What amazing different endings to two lives.

3.5-4 stars rounded up Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton is a historical fiction that alternates between the late 1950's with Elisa and current year with Marisol. It examines identity and how much of who we are and the decisions we make are formed by family, heritage, society, and politics using the Cuban revolution & emigration/exiles as the backdrop. This book started out really strong for me. The characters were strong and the history was fascinating; it definitely put things in perspective for an American that knows little about Cuba's history and political climate. However, as the book progressed, I found it veering more and more into political and history lessons via dialogue and further away from the stories of the characters and at the same time progressed to an ending that I felt was a bit too tied in a bow. I didn't entirely buy the modern day course of events and so I knocked off stars. Overall Chanel Cleeton wrote an engaging and interesting story that was enhanced by the author's notes at the end about her own family's ties to Cuba and Cuban history. I will be looking forward to the next book in the series. *thanks to Penguin Random House First to Read program for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review

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I really loved this book. It drew me in from the beginning because Cuba has always been a mystery wrapped in nostalgia. As Marisol travels around Havana and Cuba, seeing the way things used to be layered with the new, Cleeton captures the feelings of sadness and melancholy that change always brings. Cleeton skillfully shows the the good, bad and the ugly sides of Cuba after a regime that caused dramatic changes to the lives of everyone there. The story is wonderful and I loved the being able to see Havana not only through Marisol's eyes, but also her grandmother's and watch how their lives ran parallel to one another, but with drastically different endings. It's a beautiful story, and I can't wait to read what Cleeton writes next!

What a wonderful beginning to a new series! I loved the setting, Havana at the end of the 1950s and present-day Havana. This is perfect for fans of historical fiction and romance fans. I can't wait to read the rest of the books about Elisa's sisters.

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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