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Book Review: When We Left Cuba

June 29, 2019

As promised, here is the second book review of the week! It goes along with the other book I read (which you can check out here!) and was just as good! 

 

If you need a little refresher about my weekly book reviews, check it out here!

 

With no more ado, here is my review of When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton!

 When We Left Cuba picks up where Next Year in Havana left off, only it focuses on Elisa'a sister Beatriz's point of view. The Perez family is now settled in Florida, and working on rebuilding their sugar empire. With Elisa married, their mother now turns her focus to getting her other daughters into all the right parties so they can meet acceptable husbands. But the Perez women are pariahs in Palm Beach. 

 

Beatriz soon catches the eye of Nick Preston, a senator, but soon learns he's engaged.

 

She also meets Dwyer, the head of the CIA and together they concoct a plan to have Beatriz kill Fidel Castro.

 

Soon, Nick and Beatriz realize they can't be apart from one another, and begin an affair. 

 

Dwyer soon has Beatriz working on other missions for the CIA while they wait for the right moment to send her to Cuba. She begins spying on a Communist group in Florida, trying to figure out if they are recruiting supports for Castro. Her friend Eduardo, recruits her to help with some underground work, smuggling explosives into the States for the underground to use in Cuba. But Beatriz is antsy to get to Cuba.

 

When word breaks of Nick and Beatriz's affair, her mother sends her to Spain, but the CIA sends her to London to spy on a suspect, Ramon. 

 

In London, she begins to study politics in university, and goes to collect a secret film from a Soviet general,

but Ramon catches her, and in the ensuing scuffle, Beatriz kills him.

 

Shocked about killing her first person, she returns to DC with Nick, where they live together before returning to Palm Beach.

 

When President Kennedy is shot, Beatriz is told she will be going to Cuba. Nick proposes, but the pair realize their relationship will not work. Eduardo helps smuggle Beatriz into Cuba and into Castro's private quarters, but he knew Beatriz was coming. He sends her away alive, and she realizes that Eduardo betrayed her, the CIA, and the United States. 

 

The story concludes with Beatriz, now all grown up and a lawyer, rekindling her old love with Nick. She takes him to meet her family, finally, after all those years. 

 

Like Next Year in Havana, I really enjoyed all the historical elements of this novel. Again, you can tell that Cleeton really did her research. With events like The Bay of Pigs, The Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Kennedy Assassination, taking center stage, this book really places you into the 1960's, but let's you experience the fear and confusion from on outsider's point of view (since Beatriz is Cuban).

 

I still enjoyed Cleeton's style in this novel. There were some editing mistakes, like missing words, and one of the sister's fiancees being called Roberto instead of Alberto, but these did not detract from the overall aesthetic of the novel. I did feel that some of the dialogue was stilted, or out of place/ character, but it was not often enough to attract away from some of the best lines in the book.

 

While I did like Beatriz as a character, I feel like her motivation in this novel, getting revenge for her brother's death, overshadows any other characteristics she has. In Next Year in Havana, I felt like she had more development than the novel from her point of view. I also did not love her and Nick as a couple. They had way too many flaws, and fights, to ever make it work, in my opinion.

 

So, I have to give When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton a 3 out of 5. 

 

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