Summary and book reviews of Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Next Year in Havana

by Chanel Cleeton

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton X
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
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    Feb 2018, 400 pages

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Book Summary

After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity--and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution...

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba's high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country's growing political unrest--until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary...

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa's last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba's tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she'll need the lessons of her grandmother's past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.

Chapter One

Havana, 1959
 How long will we be gone?" my sister Maria asks.

"Awhile," I answer.

"Two months? Six months? A year? Two?"

"Quiet." I nudge her forward, my gaze darting around the departure area of Rancho-Boyeros Airport to see if anyone has overheard her question.

We stand in a row, the famous-or infamous, depending on who you ask-Perez sisters. Isabel leads the way, the eldest of the group. She doesn't speak, her gaze trained on her fiancé, Alberto. His face is pale as he watches us, as we march out of the city we once brought to its knees.

Beatriz is next. When she walks, the hem of her finest dress swinging against her calves, the pale blue fabric adorned with lace, it's as though the entire airport holds its collective breath. She's the beauty in the family and she knows it.

I trail behind her, the knees beneath my skirts quivering, each step a weighty effort.

And then there's Maria, the last of the sugar queens.

At thirteen, Maria's too young to understand the ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Click here for the full reading kit, courtesy of Berkley Books.

  1. The novel alternates between Elisa Perez's life in Cuba in 1958 and 1959 and her granddaughter Marisol Ferrera's trip to Cuba in 2017. Which woman did you identify with more?
  2. What parallels can you see between their personalities and their lives? What differences? The first chapter ends with Elisa wondering how long her family will be away from Cuba. The final chapter ends over a decade later with her posing the same question. How are the themes of hope and exile illustrated in the book? How does the weight of exile affect the Perez family?
  3. When Marisol arrives in Cuba she struggles with identifying as Cuban because she grew up in the United ...

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BookBrowse Review


Chanel Cleeton's Next Year in Havana, received overwhelmingly positive reviews from our First Impression readers, averaging an overall rating of 4.7, including these comments:

The author has a wonderful ability to paint a picture of Havana and Cuba so that you can see the places and settings. I especially enjoyed the author's fine, lyrical writing and the passionate and realistic characters she created...The juxtaposition of conditions in 1958 Cuba with present day Cuba was excellent. The characters were flawed and multi-dimensional. The storyline kept me turning pages rapidly and made me even more anxious to visit this beautiful but complicated country.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Full Review Members Only (565 words).

Media Reviews

Shelf Awareness

Chanel Cleeton's lush, compelling historical novel weaves together two stories of love, revolution and family secrets in Cuba.

Historical Novels Review, Editors' Choice

Told in alternating timelines, 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.


A love story and an homage to the history of the Cuban people, the latter significantly overshadowing the former.

Library Journal

Starred Review. An enticing and wonderful read for lovers of historical fiction and soul-searching journeys.

Author Blurb Kate Quinn, USA Today bestselling of The Alice Network
A flat-out stunner of a book, at once a dual-timeline mystery, a passionate romance, and paean to the tragedy and beauty of war-torn Cuba. Simply wonderful!

Author Blurb Shelley Noble, New York Times bestselling author of Whisper Beach
An evocative, passionate story of family loyalty and forbidden love that moves seamlessly between the past and present of Cuba’s turbulent history… Next Year in Havana kept me enthralled and savoring every word.

Author Blurb Jennifer Robson, USA Today bestselling author of Somewhere in France
Chanel Cleeton’s prose is as beautiful as Cuba itself, and the story she weaves—of exile and loss, memory and myth, forbidden love and enduring friendship—is at once sweeping and beautifully intimate.

Author Blurb Renee Rosen, author of Windy City Blues
An undeniably personal and intimate look at Cuba then and now, wrapped around the gripping story of two women torn between love and country.

Author Blurb Alix Rickloff, author of On the Way to London
Chanel Cleeton delivers an amazing and captivating read!

Author Blurb Heather Webb, author of Last Christmas in Paris
With graceful prose, Cleeton evokes the former grandeur of 1950s Cuba, and contrasts it with modern day Miami in this sweeping family saga of loss and love.

Author Blurb Lia Riley, author of It Happened on Love Street
A compelling, un-put-downable page-turner told from two equally powerful female narratives…A must read.

Author Blurb Stephanie Thornton, author The Conqueror's Wife
This gritty tale pulls back the curtain on revolutionary and modern Cuba, allowing us a glimpse of the courage, heartache, and sacrifices of those who left their country in exile, and also those who stayed behind.

Author Blurb Alyssa Palombo, author of The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence
Next Year in Havana is a riveting, moving novel that explores the ever-relevant themes of love and sacrifice, family and duty, patriotism and resistance. Cleeton describes Havana so vividly that I felt I was there. I could not put this book down!

Author Blurb David Ebershoff, author of The Danish Girl and The 19th Wife
A vivid, transporting novel. Next Year in Havana is about journeys-- into exile, into history, and into questions of home and identity. It's an engrossing read.

Reader Reviews

Sandra B, (TX)

Enjoyed the Book
This book helped me learn more about Cuba and the hardships that were/are there and how the Cubans continue to enjoy life and continue to live in Cuba. They make the best of a difficult situation. I would recommend reading this book.


Next Year in Havana
Next Year in Havana is not a book I usually read, but thanks to BookBrowse and its First Impressions, I'm glad this is the book I asked for. From the beginning of the book I was hooked by the way the author describes places, people, and all that is ...   Read More

Elizabeth K. (Dallas, TX)

Intriguing story of Cuba - past and present
I really enjoyed the book, which moves back and forth between Marisol's visit to present-day Cuba and her grandmother Elisa's story of Cuba in the late 1950's when Fidel Castro came into power. The contrasts between past and present, between ...   Read More

Mary D. (Claremont, CA)

Next Year in Havana
What first drew me to this book was the title, which is reminiscent of the comment "Next year in Jerusalem" which we Jews say at the end of the High Holy Days. Both phrases echo a desire to return to the homeland, the origin. I am glad that I was ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Che Guevara

Che GueveraNext Year in Havana is partially set during the Cuban Revolution (1953-1959). Che Guevara (1928-1967) was one of the Revolution's central figures. Although he does not appear directly in Next Year in Havana, the cause he fought for forms the backdrop to much of the story.

Born Ernesto Guevara de la Serna in Rosario, Argentina, Guevara was the eldest of the five children in his middle-class family. As a young man he studied medicine at the University of Buenos Aires and traveled widely throughout South and Central American while on breaks. During these excursions he witnessed widespread poverty and oppression. His 1951 motorcycle trip through Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama and Miami (immortalized in ...

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