Today I am marking off my twenty eighth #28th checkpoint category for the POPSUGAR READING CHALLENGE 2020 with:
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.
“Next year in Havana –
“It’s the toast we never stop saying, because the dream of it never comes true. And if it does one day, what then? There are Russians in the home my ancestors built. What will we return to? Is it even our country anymore, or did we give it up when we left? I’m trying to understand where I fit in all of this.”
A Reece’s Book Club title, Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton was published in 2018, by Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House. A decadent family saga traversing Cuba in the late 1950s and the present day, this is a story rich in culture, identity, politics and love. With two parallel stories to guide the reader, a comprehensive picture of Cuba emerges from the pages of Chanel Cleeton’s novel.
When Marisol Ferrera loses her dear grandmother, it spurns a meaningful trip back to the place of her grandmother’s birth and her family’s identity – Havana. It is here that Marisol discovers many unheard truths about her family and their heritage. This remarkable family history dates back to the late 1950s and the reader, along with Marisol, learns of her grandmother’s former life as the daughter of a rich sugar baron. A prominent family in Cuban society, the Perez clan are quite removed from the political unrest that begins to take shape in the country. However, when Elisa crosses paths with a revolutionary, a passionate affair ensues, with devastating consequences. Back in the present day, Marisol must confront some hard truths around her family’s background in Cuba. In addition, Marisol begins to acknowledge the strong disconnection she feels between her current life in the US and her family lineage back in Cuba. As Marisol makes steps towards shaping her cultural identity, love casts a spell on her. Next Year in Havana sees the past and present align as family secrets are finally aired.
Next Year in Havana is yet another title among so many on my shelves that have sadly sat unread for a couple of years. I picked up Chanel Cleeton’s title after seeing plenty of positive press linked to this novel via Reese Witherspoon’s book club. I was able to utilise Next Year in Havana as a part of a Pop Sugar Reading Challenge prompt. As I have very little working knowledge of Cuba, this dual narrative family saga seemed like the ideal format to learn more about this country.
The history, society features, economy, politics and class situation is this novel’s strongest point. Cleeton provides the reader with a comprehensive and accessible overview of Cuba. Next Year in Havana succeeds in educating the reader both about modern day Cuba and the past, complete with the events of the revolution, through to the present day situation. I found this educative and eye opening, but at times it was a little heavy and I do admit to switching off more than once. For those who are interested in other cultures and learning more about the Cuban way of life, Next Year in Havana would be a good book to turn to.
Utilising a double narrative format that provides a reflective lens on the events in the past and present, Next Year in Havana issues the reader with a two for one story deal. We follow Marisol in the present as she unlocks the family secrets of her grandmother’s past, which is situated in 1958-9 Cuba. The interchanges between the past and present seemed to work well, but the pace often lagged a bit for me personally. I found that the historical storyline was far more interesting, as well as heartbreaking and the characters seemed more appealing than the present day protagonists. That being said, Marisol’s journey is vital to the proceedings of the novel, driving the events forward and directing the overall flow of the novel. I also appreciated Marisol’s deep examination into her identity and cultural sense of being, it was a poignant sojourn.
Love and romance also fills out the pages of Next Year in Havana. I suspect other readers will find the tearjerker and forbidden style love story that follows Elisa’s grandmother in the 1950s storyline to be much more compelling than the modern day relationship story. Nevertheless, both these pathways to love form an essential component of the novel and will appeal to fans of historical romance novels.
All in all, I wanted to like Next Year in Havana more than I actually did. However, I was appreciative of the well-heeled glimpse into an unfamiliar country, culture and way of life.
*** 3.5 stars
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton was published on 30th April 2018 by Penguin Books Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Next Year in Havana, Chanel Cleeton, visit here.