The imagery in Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton will transport you to Cuba 1958 from page one. The author does a nice job of describing Cuba in such a way that it makes the reader feel as though they were there before and through the revolution when Fidel Castro and his comrades took over and Batista fled the country.
What I liked most about this book is that Elisa’s and Marisol’s (her granddaughter) stories are narrated in past and present real-life events, which I thought added the “X” factor to the story and made the characters three dimensional.
Next Year in Havana isn’t a romance novel, though there are two romances that develop but again the romance isn’t the focal point of the story. The focus of this book is on the sacrifices people made, whether they were right or wrong, with the goal to have a free, democratic Cuba, and have the ability to provide a better way of life for their loved ones. Oh boy, did their effort bite them in the ass?
Elisa’s and Pablo’s romance develops in 1958-1959, and I have to say this was my favorite part of the story. I thought the love they had for each other was genuine and the struggle of their stolen moments to see each other while the revolution was happening translated on the page perfectly.
Now, fast forward to 2017 when Marisol meets Luis at the Havana International airport. Their attraction is palpable from the moment they set eyes on each other, and I really liked their banter. But soon after I found that I didn’t really care for them. Luis is an alright character until he has to make a decision and the wrong one at that because he’s just too freaking stubborn to accept his reality. It’s almost as though he wants to make the same mistake Pablo made with Elisa decades ago. Marisol is supposed to be in Havana only one week, so I had a hard time believing how she could fall head over heels for someone in a day or two, to the point of confessing “I love you”. Excuse me, but it’s 2017. People have casual sex any day of the week and they’re not saying “I love you” the next day.
I loved this book until I didn’t so much. It was great until Marisol uncovers her grandmother’s secret. That was a SHOCKING plot twist I didn’t see coming and thought it was nicely done. The problem was that soon after that the story just dragged. I felt there was inner monologue on Marisol’s POV that was overdone with how much she felt and she thought, and blah blah blah, which turned the story boring when it should’ve been wrapping up.
Overall, Next Year in Havana is a good story that many will enjoy. I know I did up until after its climax. If it hadn’t been for what I thought was unnecessary thoughts/fillers, the story would’ve been one of my favorite books this year.