Cuba tends to make its way onto the bucket list of those who enjoy traveling. Unfortunately, whether you can actually visit (especially as an American) always seems to be a bit in flux which makes Cuba a great place to travel to by book!
And so, a couple months ago, I visited Cuba via Chanel Cleeton’s book Next Year in Havana. The story centers on a young woman, Marisol, who travels to Cuba to scatter the ashes of her grandmother, Elisa, whose family fled Cuba when Castro came into power. Marisol learns about her grandmother’s life in Cuba from family friends who were unable to escape during the revolution and whose own lives turned out very differently as a result.
Cleeton wonderfully describes some of the iconic imagery often associated with Cuba – the classic cars, the colorfully painted buildings, the tropical setting, the food, dancing, and more. You can almost smell the salt air and feel the warmth of the sun on your skin as you’re reading. However, Cleeton also makes it clear that beyond the pretty imagery, life in Cuba is still a struggle and quite challenging for those who remained during the revolution or have since been born there.
Marisol travels to Cuba in 2017, so Castro has only just recently died. However, the Communist Party is still in power. As she learns more about her grandmother, she discovers Elisa’s connection to a revolutionary with whom she falls in love. Marisol herself also develops a fondness for a young revolutionary during her visit, and her story and Elisa’s begin to parallel one another as the book progresses.
Cleeton weaves a delightful tale, and I enjoyed how the book was told from both Marisol’s and Elisa’s perspectives. There are two additional books by Cleeton that are loosely connected to Next Year in Havana but focus on different characters within the family. They all have a love story to them, but they also feature female characters with a bit of an independent streak well ahead of their time.
So, slip on some sandals, grab a spot in the sun, and make yourself a tropical cocktail while you settle in with Next Year in Havana!
Have you already ready Next Year in Havana? Let me know what you thought!
For more information: Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton