When We Left Cuba
Book Review - When We Left Cuba by Chanel Cleeton
I was first introduced to Chanel Cleeton’s books in February 2018 when I read and reviewed Next Year in Havana. I remember thinking to myself, why has this book not blown up in the book industry…it is SO good. Five months later, Reese Witherspoon chose it for her bookclub and Next Year in Havana (and Chanel Cleeton) finally got the attention they deserved. Even at that time there were whispers of another book about the Perez family in the works…I think we all knew it would be about our favorite character, Beatriz.
To catch you up: Next Year in Havana is about Marisol and her grandmother Elisa. The book jumps back and forth between 2017 (as Marisol travels to Cuba to learn more about her grandmother and her family) and 1958 (as Elisa and her family flee Cuba for the United States in the midst of the revolution.) We are introduced to Beatriz in this book as Marisol’s sister, but we only get hints to her exciting and adventurous background.
When We Left Cuba is Beatriz’s story. She is young, beautiful, and wealthy in Cuba - her father was a sugar baron and her family are social elite. Until the revolution when her family is forced to flee to the United States, leaving almost everything they own behind. Beatriz dedicates her life to getting her beloved Cuba out from under Fidel Castro’s thumb, joining the CIA as a spy. She is forced to choose between love and country, however, when she falls inlove with a United States Senator with Presidential ambitions.
What I loved about Next Year in Havana that continued through When We Left Cuba, was Chanel Cleeton’s ability to stuff the two books with LOTS of Cuban history without it sounding like a boring text book. In my review of Next Year in Havana I wrote, “I was halfway through the book before I realized I was getting a history lesson in Cuban politics.” The same is true for Chanel’s second book about the Perez family. It reads like a novel, but it is SO full of history and politics. I had high expectations for When We Left Cuba, and it definitely lived up to those! I can’t wait to see what is next for Chanel Cleeton!