Next Year in Havana Chanel Cleeton
Chanel Cleeton grew up in Florida but her family left Cuba in 1967; it was her father’s stories of the night before he and her grandparents left Cuba that propelled her to write Next Year in Havana. The night before leaving, the family buried their most prized possessions in the backyard. As Cleeton questioned, “If you were forced to flee the only home you’d ever known and you didn’t know when you would be able to go back, what would you choose to save for when you could return?”
Next Year in Havana alternates between nineteen-year-old Elisa’s story as a privileged daughter in Havana, 1958, and her granddaughter’s story as she visits Cuba for the first time in 2017. Although basically love story, it is much more; the historical and political background and view of Cuba in the past and present is both accurate and compelling.
Cleeton uses the family story to showcase the uncertainty of the times as pre-revolution Cuba forces questions of loyalty and family ties. “Is it better to stay and become part of the system, or to leave and be considered a traitor?” The contrast between the Cubans who left and those who stayed is profound. Memories of a time no longer in existence or living in harsh, often deprived present day Cuba forms a divide between the two groups.
Our discussion centered around Cuban history as many of us shared memories of Cuban refugees coming to Florida in the mid-sixties. We admitted that our knowledge of Cuban history was limited and the book led many of us to read more about both pre-revolutionary Cuba and life under Castro.
We enjoyed meeting at Linda Spinner’s home and she and Amanda Demarest served enjoyable appetizers.
The title, Next Year in Havana, is a nod to the toast given by exiled Cubans, who keep the hope alive that they might return one day to their former home.
“During the three decades after January 1959, more than one million Cubans of all social classes – constituting 10% of the total population – emigrated to the United States.” Wikipedia
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Apples Never Fall Liane Moriary
Readers of Liane Moriary’s Big Little Lies and The Husband’s Secret will recognize her trademark theme of family drama interspaced with humor and insight. The book opens with a missing person, Joy, which leads to the question, “If your mother was missing, would you tell the police? Even if the most obvious suspect was your father?”
The four adult children of Joy and Stan are divided in their reactions when their mother goes missing. The Delaney family is close, all the children grew up playing competitive tennis at their parent’s famed tennis academy, in competition with each other and with their parents as their coaches.
Each sibling remembers their childhood from their own perspective as they search for answers to Joy’s disappearance. Adding to the mystery is an unknown young woman, Samantha, who appears on the Delaney doorstep one night and is befriended by Joy. It is soon after Samantha leaves that Joy goes missing.
Moriary adds twists and turns to her narrative as weeks past and family dynamics change. Glenda Brown facilitated the book with questions and information about the author. Interestingly, Liane Moriary has two sisters who are also published, well-known authors; each sister specializes in a different genre.
The Bookies were pleased to welcome several new members as we met at Patti Akst’s home and she and Shelia Oimstead were our food goddesses.
Both a mystery and a family drama, Apples Never Fall will entertain you with unexpected twists and turns and insight into the characters.
“You put up with little things… and then the little things gradually get bigger.”
Apples Never Fall is being made into a TV limited series starring Annette Bening and Sam Neil.