After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity–and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution…
Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba’s high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country’s growing political unrest–until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary…
Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa’s last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.
Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba’s tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she’ll need the lessons of her grandmother’s past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.
I really enjoyed the way Cleeton shared two women’s journeys, separated by generations. Interestingly enough, their lives mirror one another in many aspects. I can’t help but wonder if that happens more often than we know. Maybe we would do well to learn more about the lives of our parents, grandparents, and so forth.
Some of my favorite parts…
Elisa, a girl of nineteen, fell in love with a revolutionary. Wars, water, and time separated them. Elisa thought Pablo dead. When Marisol, their granddaughter, questions Pablo about why he did not go to Elisa, he says:
“It’s not the life I imagined for myself, the one Elisa and I dreamed of, but the older you get, the more you learn to appreciate the moments life gives you. Getting them certainly isn’t a given, and I feel blessed to have carved out a life here where I could be happy even if it wasn’t quite the happiness I envisioned, if the things I dreamed of never quite came to pass.”
Cleeton’s wisdom rattled me. Life rarely turns out how we expect, but there are moments—moments that can steal your breath, moments that can warm your heart. I love this idea of enjoying what life has to offer, even if it doesn’t go exactly as you planned or originally hoped for.
Later on, Pablo explains further:
“It was enough to hope that she was happy.”
Marisol: “It feels so incomplete.”
Pablo: “Life so often is. It’s messy, too. This isn’t the ending, Marisol. When you’re young, life’s punctuation so often seems final when it’s nothing more than a pause. When I learned Elisa had married, I thought our story had ended. Accepted it. And now, almost sixty years later, you’re here. I have a granddaughter. A son, a new family. A piece of Elisa. You never know what’s to come. That’s the beauty of life. If everything happened the way we wished, the way we planned, we’d miss out on the best parts, the unexpected pleasures…
“We all had a vision; we had a plan. Fate, God, Fidel, they all laughed at that plan. I thought I was on one path, and it turned out to be something else entirely. That’s doesn’t mean it’s all bad, though.”
Seriously. If I had a dollar for everything in my life that turned out differently than I envisioned… I’d have more than $50 for sure. Ha. Really, life is much more like a switch-back hike than a straight road. Nothing is so clear or so easy or so direct.
Overall, I enjoyed this read. I found the story of Elisa and Pablo most compelling, but I loved watching Marisol piece things together. I learned about the history of Cuba, and I once again fell in love with the states. One of my favorite quotes at the end highlights this fact. Marisol grew up believing she would find a part of her home in Cuba. However, when she finally gets a chance to visit Cuba (after Fidel’s death), she finds that Cuba is not home. She says:
“There is no home for us in a world where we can’t speak our minds for fear of being thrown in prison, where daring to dream is a criminal act, where you aren’t limited by your own ability and ambition, but instead by the whims of those who keep a tight rein on power.”
My only complaint, my personal sensitivity. I’m not a fan of some of the PG-13 scenes.