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Next Year in Havana
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Archive: Other Books > Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton--3 stars

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Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7694 comments Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
3 stars

This was a good, but not great, historical fiction.

Marisol's grandmother Elisa, who was like a mother to her, recently passed away and her wish was for Marisol to take her ashes to Cuba, the place of her birth, and spread them in the country that always held her heart. With Castro dead and travel visa restrictions lifted, Marisol travels to the country she has never visited but was raised hearing stories of from her Cuban family.

Marisol stays with Elisa's childhood friend, Anna, a woman whose family stayed in the country in 1959 when Castro came to power while Elisa's family left for Florida. Anna treats Marisol as family, and Marisol settles in with Anna, her daughter, and her grandson Luis. But Marisol quickly learns that there is more to her grandmother's life—and more to Cuba—than she realized, and the dual storylines are revealed in alternating narratives.

First, the good. I absolutely loved the Cuban setting. I do not know much about Cuba or its history so the insight was fresh for me and I learned so much. Like, I learned basic stuff. I had no idea that Che Guevara was a key figure in the Cuban Revolution. I only associate him with Bolivia and South America. I also am ignorant as to the challenges facing the Cuban people now. It was eye-opening as I get the impression it was well researched. I really liked Elisa's story line that told of the year before Castro coming to power and then the several months afterward. I liked Elisa, I liked her sisters, and I liked Pablo. Don't get me wrong, it was laden with romance cliches, but somehow those always seem more nostalgic when placed in the past.

But, I didn't really like Marisol's storyline. I didn't particularly care for Marisol herself, though I found Luis to be interesting and would have liked to know more about Anna. What was particularly eye-rolling was that Marisol and Luis went from meeting to professing love to making life-altering decisions together in the span of about 6 days. I get it. The premise of having an American in Cuba on a tourist/journalist visa presents a timeline challenge because those things are limited! But, it just rang way to false. And, I thought the author tried way too hard to make the Marisol/Luis storyline mirror the Elisa/Pablo storyline. It felt too force, too similar, and too unnatural.

There was also a "twist" (I assume it was supposed to be a twist. A surprise?) that you could see coming from approximately page 3.

So, I was entertained, I learned new things, but I was not blown away by a long shot. But, Cleeton's next novel continues to detail the lives of the Perez family, this time through Elisa's sister Beatriz, When We Left Cuba, and I think Beatriz led one hell of a life so I will be picking that one up for sure.

Additional note about the audio: it was just okay.


message 2: by Joi (new) - added it

Joi (missjoious) | 3782 comments Eek. I was planning on doing the audio of this. Just ok isn't the best nudge towards it. Great review, I think I'll enjoy the setting and place. Cuba is definitely on my bucket list to visit.


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7694 comments I thought the narrator was just a little flat and could have had more differences among character voices. But she wasn’t annoying or anything. Good pacing.


message 4: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy | 8282 comments Joi - I just loved this! I gave it five stars, and I felt that usually an historical fiction when there’s a dual timeline that one storyline as often Much better than the other and it’s usually the older one. But in this case I actually liked both storylines. But then again we all know I don’t do audio. Joi, I just called out to you on yet another thread. My heart is bubbling and my thoughts are percolating.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Well I certainly loved your review.:) I've got this on my TBR to read and I'm hoping I love it. Cuba fascinates me.


Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7694 comments It certainly is an entertaining read at the very least. I thought the historical and cultural parts about Cuba were great!


message 7: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy | 8282 comments Or I’m just a hopeless romantic with a historical fiction edge....


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