Thank you to Berkley Publishers for sending me a free copy of ‘Next Year in Havana’ in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
Next Year in Havana alternates between two timelines: Elisa in 1950’s Cuba and her powerful family’s struggle with the political conflict, and Marisol in modern day. Marisol is Elisa’s granddaughter, visiting Cuba as a journalist. While Marisol has a feature travel piece to write, she also wants to see the country that was the setting of so many of her grandmother’s stories. She also has a secret task to complete: find the right place to spread her grandmother’s ashes. Growing up, she felt so connected to her Cuban roots thanks to the romantic reminiscing of her grandmother and great aunts. Once in Cuba, Marisol gets to see for her self the beautiful and tropical Cuba that her family came from, but cannot ignore the intense political climate that still effects the lives of Cuban people today.
First of all, I have to mention that this author has a strong connection to the content of this book: her grandparent’s left Cuba after Fidel Castro’s revolution, providing stories to Cleeton’s childhood of the colorful land of Cuba. Knowing this made me like the book even more! I really enjoyed both story lines, reading about Elisa and her family’s struggles and escape from Cuba was suspenseful. Reading about Marisol’s time in Cuba was equally enticing. Cleeton gives the reader lots of lovely descriptions of Cuba’s landscape, architecture, food and culture which were wonderful but there was more about the political conflict in this book than I was expecting. However, the unease in this country has been in the background for so long and I feel it was appropriate to let it guide both story lines because it has guided the lives of so many Cubans for decades. To ignore that or gloss over it would not be an accurate portrayal of a country that has dealt with so much unrest. Overall, I enjoyed this historical fiction novel and rate it 4/5 stars.