About the Book:
In 1935 three women are forever changed when one of the most powerful hurricanes in history barrels toward the Florida Keys.
For the tourists traveling on Henry Flagler’s legendary Overseas Railroad, Labor Day weekend is an opportunity to forget the economic depression gripping the nation. But one person’s paradise can be another’s prison, and Key West-native Helen Berner yearns to escape.
After the Cuban Revolution of 1933 leaves Mirta Perez’s family in a precarious position, she agrees to an arranged marriage with a notorious American. Following her wedding in Havana, Mirta arrives in the Keys on her honeymoon. While she can’t deny the growing attraction to her new husband, his illicit business interests may threaten not only her relationship, but her life.
Elizabeth Preston’s trip to Key West is a chance to save her once-wealthy family from their troubles after the Wall Street crash. Her quest takes her to the camps occupied by veterans of the Great War and pairs her with an unlikely ally on a treacherous hunt of his own.
Over the course of the holiday weekend, the women’s paths cross unexpectedly, and the danger swirling around them is matched only by the terrifying force of the deadly storm threatening the Keys.
Chanel Cleeton’s ‘Next Year in Havana’ was unexpectedly one of my favorite books in 2018 so I was thrilled to hear that she was writing a book about the Florida Keys in the 1930’s called ‘The Last Train to Key West’. The author knows her Cuban and Florida roots and it really shows in her rich stories.
Told from three different points of view, the book tells the story of the three women whose paths cross on the eve of the Labor Day hurricane in 1935. Mirta, Elizabeth and Helen are very unique and distinctive characters who are each on a different journey. The author shows a great respect and love for the setting and I love the real-life history woven throughout the story.
This book does not delve as deeply into Cuban politics and history as the previous books, and focuses more on the Florida Keys. I enjoyed reading about post-Depression South Florida and the tragic efforts to extend the Florida East Coast railroad from the Florida mainland to the Keys. i also loved the exploration of women’s roles during this time period and how much their lives were affected by their fathers or husbands.
This is a lushly written tale of romance and survival and I loved each of the brave women who were the focus of this book. As always, the research and background stories were perfection!
(ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)