by Libby Fischer Hellmann
Genre: Historical Fiction, Thriller
Francesca Pacelli is the daughter of a crime boss and has spent most of her life so far in Cuba. The casino her father runs is in its heyday, but trouble is coming. Cuba is on the verge of revolution. In the charged environment, Francesca, or Frankie, never expects to fall in love, and especially not with Luis. After all, he was sent to kidnap her to raise funds for the revolution. Abandoning her father and his heavy-handed rule over her and his piece of Cuba, Frankie runs away with Luis and starts a new life as a Cuban wife supporting Fidel’s revolution.
Frankie’s act sets off a chain of events that lasts through the life of her son Michael and her granddaughter Luisa. Caught between the affluence of America and the strenuous conditions in Cuba, Frankie and her family struggle to hold onto the ones they love. Separation and death work against them in a fight for power, money, respect, and sometimes love.
When I heard about Havana Lost I knew I would enjoy it because I enjoyed Libby’s book, A Bitter Veil, so much. She didn’t disappoint with Havana Lost. Libby writes with a compassionate and fascinating personal approach to history with her fictional characters. Revolution means so much more to the people inside it, especially if they are in love and pregnant. The frank and honest way Libby looks at the truth about the countries, the people involved in the revolution, and their different points of view gives an important face to the historical facts.
I loved the way Libby’s characters were not quintessential good guys or bad guys. Luis supported the revolution for his reasons and Ramon for his, and both men act in ways that may be “bad” for their good ends. Frankie supported Luis and his values, but as a pampered American had different, more idealistic personal motives for the cause. Later she embraces the role of crime boss for the power and place it gives her though she hated her father for it.
Spanning three generations, Libby takes on a lot with her tale. But nowhere did the action seem to fall flat or lose the interesting momentum. I cared about each person for themselves and for the other characters connected to them. At first her sudden time shifts disconcerted me, but I love the way they added mystery to the events transpiring and gave the very real sense that time flies. Her details bring Cuba and all the other places and their cultures to life. I thoroughly enjoyed Havana Lost and recommend this riveting historically-based tale.
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I received this book from the author for the purposes of an unbiased review.