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Book Review: Next Year in Havana

I'm back! I had an amazing, and relaxing, time in Mexico! It may have been a little sweaty, but I had a great time overall! But, more on that later! My Mexico post should be up some time early next week, so keep an eye out for that!

As promised, here is the first of two book reviews this week to keep me on track for my 52 book challenge. This week's books are numbers 24 and 25, which is crazy to me! If you need a refresher about my book reviews, check it out here!

This week's book was the first in a series, so it was the perfect chance to read the two books that are out (No idea if the author is writing more from these characters points of views, but I hope she is!). So, this is my review for book one! So, with no more ado, here is my review of Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton!

Next Year in Havana switches points of view between Elisa Perez, and her granddaughter Marisol. Elisa's points of view follows her families time in, and flight from, Havana. Marisol's follows her as she becomes the first Perez to come back to Cuba. Elisa and her sister's are basically royalty in 1950's Cuba thanks to their father's sugar business. But Cuba is in a time of change. People are revolting against the President Batista.

Soon, Elisa and her sisters go to a party where she meets Pablo, a revolutionary. Despite their political differences, the pair fall in love.

Pablo continues to fight for Fidel Castro, against Batista, despite the Perez's allegiance to Batista.

Soon, Pablo proposes to Elisa, yet they keep their engagement secret since her parent's would not approve. Pablo goes to fight in a battle and is killed. Soon after, Elisa finds she's pregnant with his child. Batista soon flees Cuba, and Fidel takes control. With increasing pressure on the family, they decide to leave Cuba. Soon after arriving, Elisa finds a man who will marry her and they raise her son together.

Marisol's story begins with the death of her grandmother, Elisa. Her final wish is to have her ashes scattered in Cuba.

Marisol sets off for Cuba, and stays with Elisa's oldest friend Ana. There, she discovers a box of Elisa's letters, that reveal her love for Pablo.

Determined she needs to meet him, Marisol sets off to find him with the help of Ana's grandson, Luis.

It is through Luis that Marisol discovers the beauty and tragedy of Cuba, and learns that he is on the governments radar for writing about the government. With the help of the Perez's old nanny, Marisol learns the truth of her father's paternity, and learns of Pablo's death. Soon, Marisol and Luis are picked up by the Cuban government for questioning. There, it is revealed that Pablo didn't actually die in that battle, but is still alive and working for the government, He explains that Marisol and Luis need to leave Cuba, and arranges for them to leave. With Pablo's help, Marisol scatters Elisa's ashes were the two first fell in love. Luis and Marisol escape, and soon set up a life together in the safety of the United States.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! This a piece of history that I didn't know much about. I was excited to learn more about this time period. Cleeton obviously did her research, making this an excellent historical fiction novel. I learned a lot about Cuban history, something not really taught in the States.

I liked the alternating points of view. I liked Elisa's perspective better. I found her a little more empathetic, and realistic, than Marisol, but I ultimately liked both characters. Cleeton was able to write with two different personalities so it truly felt like two separate people's thoughts and emotions while you were reading. I liked that the two perspectives allowed the reader to see Cuba at two different points of times, and under two different "presidents."

In terms of style, I thought Cleeton had a great style. She is an excellent writer, with an excellent and established voice. She is able to be poetic, without being overbearing, and was truly able to bring the streets of Cuba to life.

I'm giving Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton an enthusiastic 4 out of 5!

Be sure to stayed tuned for my book review of book 2 later this week!

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