The Bookends with Pam and Becky

Next Year in Havana
By: Chanel Cleeton

After the death of her grandmother, Marisol Ferrera travels to Cuba to complete a request from the woman who was like a mother to her. She hopes to experience the Cuba that she learned about through stories from her exiled family. When she arrives and meets an old family friend, she learns secrets about her grandmother that will make her question all she knows about her family. Marisol also learns about the challenges facing Cuba and the people of her family’s home.

Pam: When I read the summary for this book, I was very intrigued. I realized that I had never read a book about Cuba and I did not have much background knowledge about the history. I was also drawn to the story of a very strong woman and her family. We begin with Elisa’s story in Havana in 1959, as her family is escaping Cuba after the fall of Batista. From this point, we learn about Elisa, her family, and what led to their exile from their home. Elisa and her three sisters are part of high society, as the daughters of a sugar baron. Did you enjoy reading about the sisters and their relationships with each other?

Becky: This book was intriguing from a few angles. The sisters were interesting and I enjoyed the family dynamics. What really hijacked my mind while reading this was learning more about Cuba. I had recently returned from a trip to Kenya and it was fresh in my mind the privilege it is to be born on American soil. A book club could have some interesting discussion with the topics brought to light in this book. The storyline from 1959 primarily tells us about Elisa’s journey. Before traveling to Cuba, Marisol thought that she knew her grandmother Elisa, but she soon discovers that there were some secrets to uncover. Did you enjoy the pace in which the story is revealed?

Pam: When we read stories that take us from one time to another, I am often eager to continue reading and discover how characters and events are connected. I felt that same anticipation with this book, but felt that the pace was appropriate for the story. Marisol traveled to Cuba in order to bring grandmother’s ashes to her home, however, she was officially there to write a travel article for a magazine. As she began to learn of Elisa’s secrets and the realities for the people of Cuba, her focus changed drastically. Marisol meets Luis, the son of Elisa’s best friend, when he picks her up from the airport and brings her to his family’s home. She feels a connection immediately and is surprised and unsettled by her feelings. This character has many different sides and will help Marisol discover the truth about her grandmother and Cuba. Did you enjoy this character and his part in the story?

Becky: When Luis is introduced to the story it was obvious to me that he would become her love interest. I think that he added an interesting layer to this story and as her tour guide, his character provided a plethora of information. Later in the book, I was on the edge of my seat with his story. I was so worried for him that I literally think it increased my heart rate. This book isn’t overly descriptive but the writing in this book transported me to Cuba. Did you feel like you could hear the sea, imagine the beautiful dresses and visualize the many facets of Cuba?

Pam: I could definitely visualize Cuba and the Cuban people while reading this book. This picture in my head made me want to learn more about the history and culture of Cuba. Luis helps run a small restaurant out of his family’s home. This business allows the family to survive financially in challenging circumstances. Luis works with his grandmother, mother, and ex-wife in their restaurant. Although his grandmother is happy to host Marisol, the other women in the home are not. Were you surprised by their hostility?

Becky: I was not surprised at all that this group of women were wary of Marisol. I think they were cautious because she was an American but also protective because of their love for Luis. I too probably would have had a little attitude if I were in their position. Luis was already on a watch list and put himself in further danger by connecting himself to an American journalist. What I found more interesting is that he worked with his ex-wife. Financially she didn’t have other options so it was an intriguing layer to this story.
In April of 2019 the author is releasing When We Left Cuba. We have the same family but the story is told in the 1960’s after they have settled in Florida. It will focus on Beatriz, the spicier sister. Would you be interested in revisiting this story from a different angle?

Pam: I would like to revisit this family, especially with the focus on Beatriz. She unapologetically went her own way in life and she would be fascinating to follow as the family had such a challenging change in lifestyle and culture. Although I have enjoyed following the family dynamics in the Ferrera family, it is time for us to get to know the Quinn family. Join us next month as we navigate the Christmas season with the Quinn family in Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand.

Check out some other books we recommend in, The Bookshelf:
The Darkling Bride by Lauren Andersen. This Victorian mystery has it all! An old castle, a handsome Lord, family secrets and mysterious deaths.

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