Next Year in Havana

9 CDs. 11:20 hrs. Feb. 2018. ISBN 9781538469743. $34.95. F
In 1959 Havana, as Fidel Castro claims absolute power, the sugar-rich Perez family's vast wealth marks them as targets, necessitating their escape to Miami, FL. So 19-year-old Elisa Perez leaves Cuba with her three sisters and their parents. Almost 60 years later, Marisol Ferrara arrives in Cuba bearing Elisa's ashes in fulfillment of her grandmother's final wish to return home. Elisa's childhood best friend Ana—who still lives next door to the former Perez mansion—warmly welcomes Marisol to Havana, presenting her with Elisa's box of long-buried secrets, prompting an inevitable collision of past and present. Frankie Maria Corzo imbues Elisa with steely determination, even as her family faces destruction, and even death. Kyla Garcia relies on her notably adjustable range to channel seamlessly Marisol's tenacious quest and vulnerable discoveries. Alternating between Elisa's truncated affair with a revolutionary comrade and Marisol's search to understand her family's forcibly abandoned heritage, romance novelist Cleeton (On Broken Wings) alchemizes her own family's Cuban exodus into historical fiction.
VERDICT Despite occasional plot missteps—overwrought history lessons embedded as clumsy dialog, Marisol's implausibly fast-tracked romance—internationally savvy readers will appreciate exploring enigmatic Cuba, then and now, with a Cuban American insider as engaging guide. ["An enticing…read for lovers of historical fiction and soul-searching journeys": LJ 12/17 starred review of the Berkley hc.]
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