Review: Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton 
Release Date: February 6, 2018 
Publisher: Berkley 
Genre: Women's Fiction, Historical Fiction 
Source: ARC provided by the publisher via First to Read in exchange for an honest review 
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.


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 residency 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.

5 stars!! 

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