Next Year in Havana
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Women’s Fiction/Historical Fiction
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.
“Ninety miles. Ninety miles separate Cuba from Key West, the southernmost tip of the United States. Ninety miles that might as well be infinite.”
Passionate, emotional and heart-stopping, ‘Next Year in Havana’ exceeded all my expectations. I was reluctant to read this because having grown up in South Florida, I set a high bar for this story. Ms. Cleeton surprised me with her portrayal of Cuba and of the tragic and proud inhabitants of the island.
“Havana is like a woman who was grand once and has fallen on hard times, and yet hints of her former brilliance remain, traces of an era since passed, a photograph faded by time and circumstance, its edges crumbling to dust.”
The story alternates between the time of Fidel Castro overthrowing the Batista government and the present. Marisol’s beloved grandmother Elisa has passed away, and she entrusted Marisol with bringing her ashes back to her beloved Cuba and scattering them there. Marisol, who grew up in Miami as the grandchild of exiles, travels alone to Cuba to fulfill Elisa’s wishes.
Marisol is stunned to discover that Elisa, who grew up in a wealthy, privileged family, kept many secrets from her family and was not the grandmother that Marisol thought she knew so well. Marisol discovers that Elisa had fallen in love with a revolutionary, something that was absolutely forbidden by her family and extremely dangerous at that time in Cuba.
“She was the constant in my life, the person I knew would be there for me no matter what, the one person in my family who accepted me without reserve, who didn’t attempt to shape me into the Perez mold. That makes this discrepancy between the woman I thought I knew and the woman she was cut the deepest.”
Through a series of letters written by Elisa’s lover Pablo, Marisol learns of the terror and torment that both Batista and Fidel Castro brought upon the Cuban people. And she learns of the great love affair between her grandmother, only 19 at the time, and Pablo.
“Pablo steps behind me, close enough that his fingers brush against the line of tiny buttons running down my spine. It feels like an eternity before his fingers slip the button through the slim hole, setting it to rights. It could be my imagination, but I swear his fingers twitch against me, or perhaps it’s my own body that shudders. There’s a novelty to this that catches me off guard. He is both old and new at once, and I can’t ignore the voice inside me that’s pushed out my mother’s now—Pay attention. This is important. He is important.”
Marisol meets Luis, the son of the host of her guest house, or casa particulares. He dreams of a free Cuba and is bitter towards the Castro regime and those who left in exile. He is passionate, intelligent and articulate. And very dangerous.
Marisol’s modern-day romance with Luis parallel’s her grandmother’s romance with Pablo in 1958. The similarities brought me to tears – both forbidden and seemingly doomed. Both Elisa and Marisol loved Cuba with all their heart but did not know how to help and how to cause change. Both were from wealthy and privileged families, making it dangerous to cause trouble or bring any attentions to themselves.
“I wish things were simpler,” Pablo adds. “I wish you could live in my world and I could live in yours. I wish there wasn’t such a sharp divide between those who have everything and those who simply yearn for a chance at more.”
“At the end of the day, the only thing you have left is what you stand for. If I said nothing, if I did nothing, I could not live with myself. I would not be a man. This is the position I choose to take, and for better or worse, I will accept the consequences of my actions.”
Marisol is simply stunned to discover that her grandmother loved a revolutionary and cannot wrap her head around it. The parallel loves stories were simply breathtaking!
“What happened between them? Were they separated by the revolution? Did she forget him when she met my grandfather? My grandmother loved a revolutionary. I can’t quite wrap my mind around it.
Why didn’t my grandmother tell me these stories? Why didn’t she trust me with this?”
In addition to the gorgeous love stories. the author’s recounting of the Communist revolution and of modern-day Cuba are spot-on. I could feel the terror of the citizens as the revolution overtook them and feel the hopelessness of the current citizens of Cuba. I applaud Ms. Cleeton for insightful look into the current situation in Cuba!
“For the first time in my life, I know true, bone-chilling fear. For the first time in my life, I understand the precarious frailty of freedom.”
This book was thrilling and passionate and emotional and romantic and SO satisfying! Marisol and Luis and Elisa and Pablo felt like close friends by the end of this novel. I highly recommend ‘Next Year in Havana’ this to all romance readers and to anyone even remotely interested in Cuba, an island that is a mere 90 miles from U.S. shores, but might as well be 5,000 miles away.
“This island will break your heart if you let it.”
Barnes & Noble: www.barnesandnoble.com
Learn more about Next Year in Havana including downloading the book club guide and more at: http://www.chanelcleeton.com/next-year-in-havana/
Add Beatriz Perez’s story WHEN WE LEFT CUBA on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38193131-when-we-left-cuba
Praise for Next Year in Havana:
Chanel Cleeton’s Next Year In Havana is a flat-out stunner of a book, at once a dual-timeline mystery, a passionate romance, and paean to the tragedy and beauty of war-torn Cuba. The story of sugar heiress Elisa, watching Cuba fall into revolution as Castro rises, is intertwined with the modern-day tale of Elisa’s granddaughter Marisol as she returns to Cuba after Castro’s death. Both women fall for fire-brand revolutionaries, but Cuba itself emerges as their true love-interest, threatening to break both women’s hearts as Elisa and Marisol each grapple in their own way with what it is to be Cuban, what it is to be an exile, and how to love and live in a homeland riven by revolution. Simply wonderful!
– Kate Quinn, New York Times bestselling author of The Alice Network
Cleeton has penned an atmospheric, politically insightful, and highly hopeful homage to a lost world. Devour NEXT YEAR IN HAVANA and you, too, will smell the perfumed groves, taste the ropa vieja, and feel the sun on your face. Just a wonderful and educational book!
– Stephanie Dray, New York Times bestselling author of America’s First Daughter
A vivid, transporting novel. Next Year in Havana is about journeys– into exile, into history, and into questions of home and identity. It’s an engrossing read.
– David Ebershoff, author of The Danish Girl and The 19th Wife
An evocative, passionate story of family loyalty and forbidden love that moves seamlessly between the past and present of Cuba’s turbulent history— how one young woman’s sacrifice becomes the key to her granddaughter’s future—how culture and spirit survive against all odds. Next Year in Havana kept me enthralled and savoring every word.
– Shelley Noble, New York Times bestselling author of Whisper Beach
In Next Year in Havana, Chanel Cleeton’s prose is as beautiful as Cuba itself, and the story she weaves–of exile and loss, memory and myth, forbidden love and enduring friendship–is at once sweeping and beautifully intimate. This is a moving, heartfelt, and gorgeously realized story that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.
– Jennifer Robson, USA Today bestselling author of Somewhere in France
About the Author:
Originally from Florida, Chanel Cleeton 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.
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