My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Chanel Cleeton has done it again! And she may have done it better.
I simply adored Next Year in Havana when I read it as one of Reese Witherspoon’s book club picks last year. It so fantastically captured the essence of Cuba while providing a lot of great historical information about how Fidel Castro rose to power.
So when I saw When We Left Cuba hit the shelves, I could not wait to read it. And it did not disappoint. When We Left Cuba starts where Next Year in Havana leaves off. The Perez family has fled to the United States after Fidel Castro assumes power. And the story follows Beatriz as she struggles to accept the reality of her beloved Cuba. She is angry and decides to use her beauty and intelligence to help the CIA with their plans to overthrow Castro.
I absolutely adored Beatriz. She was such a strong character with strong morals and values, oozing independence and fire. Chanel Cleeton did the perfect job developing her and making her totally believable.
Beyond my love for Beatriz, there were two really great things about this book:
1. The Love Story. There was kind of a bizarre love triangle thing going on in the story and it was perfectly executed. I was enraptured with Beatriz and how she balanced her love for Cuba and her mission with her conflicting love interests.
2. The History. I learned so much about The Cold War by reading this book and it was fiction. I’ve always thought one of the fantastic things about historical fiction as a genre is the ability to make history interesting and engaging. Cleeton did the perfect job incorporating true events (The Bay of Pigs, Kennedy’s assassination, The Cuban Missile Crisis) into the story, and giving good historical information without bogging down the story with boring factual content. She used Beatriz’s experience of these events as a delivery tool and it worked wonderfully.
Overall, this was a very strong follow up to Cleeton’s successful first novel. I think I may have enjoyed it even more than Next Year in Havana which was a hard act to follow. As each book is told from the perspective of a different sister in the Perez family, I truly hope Cleeton continues this story from the perspectives of the other sisters in the family. I would be delighted to find out what happens next.