Chanel Cleeton continues her engrossing Perez Sisters saga with Isabel’s story (1964) and her mother Alicia’s story (1936), not in their former home in Havana, Cuba, or their current home in exile, Palm Beach, Florida, but primarily in Barcelona, Spain.
Of the four Perez sisters, Isabel is the most guarded, the most cautious, the most straight and narrow. However, when she learns that her headstrong sister has gone missing in Barcelona, she doesn’t hesitate to leave her husband in search of Beatriz. Hesitantly placing trust in one of her sister’s friends, Isabel finds herself stepping into Beatriz’s world of covert international actions. There, Barcelona is painted as a city that is seductive and filled with a vibrancy found in everything from its cafés to its art. That Barcelona, however, is the setting for the mysterious photograph Isabel finds in Beatriz’s apartment, one that includes her as a child in Barcelona, a place she swears she’s never been before.
Alicia Perez leaves her husband and troubled marriage behind in Cuba, temporarily fleeing with her young daughter, Isabel, to Barcelona to be with her parents. But Spain is on the verge of civil war with fascism’s ugly face staring at Europe. When Cubans travel to Spain in support of the International Brigades, Alicia is reunited with a family friend who she is surprised to realize still lives in her heart.
With grace and understanding always the bedrock of Cleeton’s writing, the mother’s and daughter’s stories run parallel, decades apart, and both women find strength as they face choices of doing what society demands is right and doing what their hearts demand they do. Sacrifices and redemption are front and center, and the struggle between “love will come” and “love is found” snakes its way through both narratives.
Cleeton shines in weaving the stories and allowing her characters to make difficult decisions even when faced with the lesser of two evils. Cleeton also is a master at writing about the friction and gentle bonds between sisters, especially when their worldviews are diametrically opposed. The Perez sisters are tethered tightly through their fights, their reconciliations, their consolations, their celebrations.
As an author of historical fiction, Cleeton offers a unique family saga, navigating war, separation, loyalty, and a love for their homeland, Cuba, as it was and could once again be. Each of her Perez Family, Perez Sisters, and Cuba-centric novels is a fascinating look at Cuba’s and her people’s history, intensity, struggles and beauty.
Chanel Cleeton’s Cuba/Perez Family books (from chanelcleeton.com):
What’s the best reading order for your books?
I’d recommend reading Next Year in Havana before When We Left Cuba, but the rest of my books are set earlier in history and can be read on their own. Thanks!
If you’d like to read them in the order they were published, this is the publication order:
Next Year in Havana (Perez Sisters)
When We Left Cuba (Perez Sisters)
The Last Train to Key West (Perez Family)
The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba (Perez Family)
Our Last Days in Barcelona (Perez Sisters)
When are your books set?
Next Year in Havana-1958/2017
When We Left Cuba-1960
The Last Train to Key West-1935
The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba-1896
Our Last Days in Barcelona-1936/1964