Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton was a Reese Witherspoon Book Club selection in July 2018. I like to see the lists of celebrity recommendations but rarely follow them. When Audible put it on sale earlier this year, I decided I would give it a listen. 3-Stars. I guess Reese liked it a lot more than I did.
Next Year in Havana is a historical fiction novel that follows two timelines. The first about a granddaughter who takes her grandmother’s ashes to Cuba. While there she learns family secrets and falls in love with a revolutionary, who happens to be the grandson of her grandmother’s childhood best friend. The second story is from the grandmother’s perspective of being the daughter of a wealthy family in 1958 – 1959 Cuba, and fleeing the country for the United States. And yes, before the grandmother leaves, she falls in love with a revolutionary.
The book is much more political than I imagined. It is the author’s personal soapbox for all the injustices that have occurred in Cuba since the 1940s. It talks about the human rights violations that are still occurring today. The frustration of Cubans who were exiled, along with the frustration of the Cubans who remained. The phrase “Next Year In Havana” is said by Cuban exiles on New Year’s Eve in hopes that they will be able to return to and reclaim Cuba the next year. I enjoyed the history and the storyline but could have done without the political message that was repeated over and over.
I had some trouble understanding the Audible narrator for the granddaughter. As an American, I was taught to pronounce Cuba as Q-ba. The book is written in English, but apparently Audible wanted to use the Spanish dialect for the word Cuba. The narrator’s pronunciation seemed to vary. It sounded like Cooba, Koova, Goo-ba, and at one point Goo-rah. I was confused trying to figure out if the narrator was talking about Cuba or naming a city within the country.
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