This love story has circulated on bookstagram for ages now, and definitely fell into the “#bookstagram made me buy it” category. I picked up a copy on my Half Price Books bender, and then found out that Hoopla had an audiobook, so I took that route instead. I can get to books much fast that way, and I had already waited so long, ya know?
I listened to narrators Kyla Garcia and Frankie Maria Corzo in alternating chapters as they gave life to the voices of Marisol and Elisa, almost 60 years apart, as Cleeton weaves their story together.
Marisol was very close with her grandmother, Elisa, and their Cuban roots, growing up listening to stories of Havana, the family sugar plantation, and how the family was forced to flee to Miama during the Cuban revolution. Now, it is Marisol’s chance to finally see the soil her grandmother grew up on, and she has an important task- to find a final resting place for Elisa’s ashes. Traveling to Havana, Marisol soaks up the culture, but when she is given a box of her grandmother’s long-buried items, she uncovers a family secret…and she’s determined to get the whole story. With the help of an attractive young man named Luis and the lessons of her grandmother’s past, Marisol learns what it means to love someone in the peak of political unrest in Cuba.
Being historical fiction, I enjoyed learning about Havana’s culture and seeing the past through someone else’s eyes. I also found Marisol and Elisa very likeable and relatable, and thought their stories were well woven and worked together- I was emotionally invested in their familial relationship, and pleasantly surprised and shocked at how Elisa’s past was revealed. In the end, I adored the decision Marisol made for Elisa’s ashes. I can’t say as much for Marisol’s relationship with Luis… that fell a little flat for me. I think he opened her eyes to a lot of the turnmoil in Cuba, and he was really sweet to her, but I struggled with their chemistry.
Overall, I think booksta didn’t let me down, and I enjoyed the audio of this novel. The writing was beautiful and atmospheric- even when it got gritty. I’d happily give it a recommendation if someone was looking for a histfic or love story, and I’d definitely give another Cleeton novel a read just based on my impression of Next Year in Havana.