Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

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ARC provided by Berkley in exchange for an honest review.

“We carry our home with us in our hearts, laden with hope. So much hope.”

Next Year in Havana is such an amazing book that had me crying all the happy tears, all the sad tears, and all the in-between tears. I feel like this ownvoices book, that Chanel Cleeton crafted, took a piece of my heart, and I’m fine living without it, because this book was such a work of art, inside and out. And this beautiful story is told in two different timelines from two different women.

Elisa – Who is living in 1958 Havana, which is constantly unsafe. Elisa has lived a more privileged life than most, because her family is wealthy, and her father works under the current president, Batista. But the people aren’t happy, and Fidel Castro and his revolutionary followers are on the rise. No one is safe, and Elisa realizes very quickly that her heart isn’t safe either.

Marisol – Who is living in 2017 Miami, but currently taking a trip to Havana to lay Elisa’s ashes to rest, in the city that always had her heart. Even after being forced to leave so many years ago. Marisol sees first hand that impact that Fidel Castro has left on Cuba when her grandmother and her family were forced to flee.

“Love feels like a luxury in a world where so many struggle for the basic things I take for granted.”

And each timeline follows a different heart-wrenching and heart-mending romance. And these two stories interweave together to create something more beautiful than I have words for. I was so addicted, and I couldn’t stop turning the pages.

This book is also so atmospheric. I felt like I was alongside both of these girls in Cuba. And I could feel the sad, heartbreaking reality of what Cuba was like in 1950, and what it is still like in almost 2020. I was born and raised in the United States, and it just made me even more aware of my privilege. It also made me side-eye my country a bit more than usual, too.

“The Americans preach liberty, and freedom, and democracy at home, and practice tyranny throughout the rest of the world.”

And one of my favorite aspects of this book was Marisol bringing up her thoughts and feelings about being biracial and feeling equal parts like an outsider and like at home while she is in Cuba. I’m a lot more white passing than Marisol, but the things she deals with and feels when she travels to Cuba, is something so real and something so very close to my Filipina heart.

“My grandparents are Cuban, my father Cuban, therefore I am Cuban. But will it matter here that my skin is lighter than many of the country’s citizens, that my blood is not fully Cuban? Am I an outsider here or is the ancestry I claim enough?”

I also loved how this book celebrates all the different types of love we will have during our lifetime. Love that we will never forget. Love from second chances at love that will make us feel whole again. Love between friends who will never forget us. Love between people who are family, no matter the blood that runs through our veins. Love for a country that never loved back.

Okay, so this book was amazing, but I did have two minor things that were the reason I didn’t give this five stars. The first being, it was very predictable to me. I mean, that didn’t stop all the tears from coming, but I knew where this was going as soon as Elisa snuck out with her sisters. The next being Elisa’s father/Marisol’s grandpa. Like, damn, I understand why, but what a dick. And I personally always really dislike the “miscommunication” trope, even though I loved this book with my whole heart.

“When you love something you don’t count the cost.”

And overall, I recommend this book to any and every book lover. And I think this was such a wonderful pick for Reese’s book club! And I cannot wait to see where Chanel Cleeton takes Beatriz’s story in When We Left Cuba in 2019!


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Trigger and content warnings for loss of a loved one, abandonment, and war themes. Also, off-screen captivity, torture, and murder.

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

If you would have told little kid bookworm Melanie that Berkley would one day send her a book because it’s July’s pick for Reese Witherspoon’s future book club, she would not have believed you. (And probably ran, because I was a paranoid kid and I would have thought you were a kidnapper, but still!) 💕

15 thoughts on “Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

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