Next Year in Havana

Written by Chanel Cleeton
Review by Holly Faur

Marisol Ferrera is living in modern-day Miami when she agrees to honor her grandmother Elisa’s last request by traveling to Havana, Cuba, to spread her ashes. There, Marisol learns the troubling history of her family’s home country, along with some dangerous family secrets as she struggles to keep her promise.

Havana, Cuba, 1950s. Young Elisa is living the revolution with her sisters, and falling in love with a revolutionary even as her family faces certain exile from their home.

Told in alternating time lines, Next Year in Havana is an immersive family saga of love, hope, and sacrifice, and what it means to be Cuban, despite where you were born. I loved the rich details of Cuba, especially Havana, and Cleeton does an excellent job of bringing both the past and present to life. The atmosphere she creates is transporting, a tribute to her own heritage. Both women are ambitious and real, their stories and struggles intertwining effortlessly, and Cuba’s terrible past is written about with honesty and grace, which allows for an intimate glimpse into life during the revolution.

For me, the history and richness of Cuba are what drove the story, versus suspense and surprise, and in the end, I enjoyed the many threads both women share as they each discover what it means to love their country and family.