The Last Train to Key West

Berkley. Jun. 2020. 320p. ISBN 9780451490889. pap. $16. F
An exhausted waitress awaits the birth of her child while dreaming of escaping her abusive husband. A young newlywed from Havana yearns to know more about the stranger she has just married. A gangster’s reluctant fiancée searches desperately for the long-lost brother she believes can change her future. These three women’s paths converge in 1935 Key West in the latest historical novel from Cleeton (When We Left Cuba), and all three will have their lives unexpectedly thrown off course by the monster hurricane bearing down on the area. More direct interaction among Cleeton’s protagonists would have made the book feel more cohesive, but each of the three story lines is well done on its own, and the historical events are riveting. Cleeton’s strength is in exploring the lives of women longing to push back against restrictive social expectations, but portions of the story dealing with the U.S. government’s treatment of World War I veterans are also extremely moving.
VERDICT Cleeton should add to her growing fan base with this title, which is well suited for book clubs and for historical fiction fans of authors such as Renée Rosen and Susan Meissner.

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