In addition to having read Next Year in Havana, the first book of the Perez family’s story, I studied the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missle Crisis multiple times in my long-ago Bachelor’s degree program. I knew I’d read this one from the get-go.
Beatriz Perez’s life has been forever altered by her family’s hasty departure from Cuba at the start of the Castro regime. Now settled in Palm Beach and trying to regain as much of their lost social standing and wealth as possible, the Perez sisters are making the rounds of charity balls, society parties and the like on their mother’s orders to find a wealthy, well-connected husband to help rescue the family from oblivion. Except Beatrice has other plans, plans to help take back her beloved Cuba. Even she could not imagine the men who would enter her life, both in the shadows, both powerful.
Just as Betty Friedan gave voice to the ennui of her generation, Chanel Cleeton, through Beatriz, clearly shows how limited the women of the 1950s were in their choices. Beatriz seeks liberation for herself though she expresses it as liberation for her beloved country. The choices she makes, the risks she takes, are ones only offered to women during a war. The Cold War gives her the freedom to do unexpected things and to play an unexpected role.
Next Year in Havanna was lovely, but slower, more in the speed of old-time Cuba. This book was electric! The life Beatriz creates is exciting. She is doing something few people can even imagine being asked to do, let alone managing to do it very well. Her drive and ambition mirror that of her father, but she is a daughter. The emotions generated by this conflict, by her choice of men, by the unease of the Cold War for American and of the continuing Castro regime for the Cuban exile community, makes this a fast-paced book.
I can’t wait for Chanel Cleeton’s next book!