I selected Next Year in Havana from Penguin’s First to Read program because the second I read the description, I was hooked. Dual-timeframe romances are my favorite, favorite subgenre, so I knew I had to check this one out. And man, am I glad I did.
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.
(Every time I think of this book, I can’t help but sing Havana, ooh nah nah… I like that song way more now since I finished reading this!) I really, really enjoyed this book. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. It’s certainly not your average light romance. This book is beautifully written, poignant, and emotional. I loved the characters (in both storylines), loved the setting, loved the plot. I just loved it, okay?
Marisol travels to Havana after her grandmother’s death to carry out her final wishes of having her ashes scattered in her homeland. The story switches back and forth between Marisol’s present-day viewpoint, and her grandmother’s life in Cuba during the 1950s, before her family was forced to flee to America.
A lot of times when reading stories that are set in two distinct periods, with two distinct sets of characters, I find myself connecting with one and gravitating towards it more than the other. That didn’t really happen here. I liked both storylines, and I was pretty much equally invested in each. Elisa’s historical story was just as engaging as Marisol’s present-day one (and vice versa), and both storylines contained elements of adventure, suspense, danger, romance, and mystery. I loved Marisol’s journey of discovering her family history, and both storylines are full of twists and turns that will grab you and keep you captivated until the end.
I’ll admit that I didn’t know much about Cuba’s history before reading this book aside from the basic common knowledge, so it was fascinating to learn about the history of a beautiful, beloved country that has been in turmoil for many, many years. This story sheds light on the pain that both exiles and people currently living in Cuba must go through, and this book is a wonderful testament to their strength and, for the exiles in particular, their unflinching hope for “next year in Havana.” I highly, highly recommend this book. I can’t say enough good things about it.