Also by this author: Next Year in Havana, When We Left Cuba, The Last Train to Key West, The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba
Published by Berkley on May 24, 2022
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 336 •Format: E-ARC •Source: NetGalley, Publisher
When Isabel Perez travels to Barcelona to save her sister Beatriz, she discovers a shocking family secret in New York Times bestselling author Chanel Cleeton’s new novel.
Barcelona, 1964. Exiled from Cuba after the revolution, Isabel Perez has learned to guard her heart and protect her family at all costs. After Isabel’s sister Beatriz disappears in Barcelona, Isabel goes to Spain in search of her. Joining forces with an unlikely ally thrusts Isabel into her sister’s dangerous world of espionage, but it’s an unearthed piece of family history that transforms Isabel’s life.
Barcelona, 1936. Alicia Perez arrives in Barcelona after a difficult voyage from Cuba, her marriage in jeopardy and her young daughter Isabel in tow. Violence brews in Spain, the country on the brink of civil war, the rise of fascism threatening the world. When Cubans journey to Spain to join the International Brigades, Alicia’s past comes back to haunt her as she is unexpectedly reunited with the man who once held her heart.
Alicia and Isabel’s lives intertwine, and the past and present collide, as a mother and daughter are forced to choose between their family’s expectations and following their hearts.
When I tell you that I LOVE the epic story of the Perez family that Chanel Cleeton has created, I am not kidding! Every installment in the series is an instant “add-to-TBR” book for me, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to review an early copy of the newest addition to the Perez family’s history, Our Last Days in Barcelona.
In Cleeton’s newest novel, readers follow eldest Perez sister Isabel who’s often been in the background as the dutiful, quiet sister. After a few years from their escape from Cuba to Florida, Isabel has been married off to a much older man, living a safe yet boring life to help elevate her family’s status in their new community. After a few years of complacency, Isabel grows restless when her headstrong sister, Beatriz, disappears in Barcelona after they have a falling out. Driven by equal parts guilt, curiosity, and love, in an uncharacteristically bold move Isabel heads to Barcelona herself to find her sister and learn the truth about her secrets.
In true Chanel Cleeton fashion, the novel not only follows Isabel’s quest to find Beatriz, but also jumps back and forth between their mother’s generation and her own journey to Barcelona to escape a fraught marriage. As a reader who’s encountered the intimidating and inflexible Alicia Perez in prior novels, it was fascinating to see her daughter’s personality traits reflected in her as a young woman, before she had fully committed to the Perez life. As she visits family in Barcelona, the impacts of World War II mirror some of the dangers that Isabel and Beatriz encounter during the Spanish civil unrest in their time. As per usual, Cleeton navigates the political backdrop well and weaves the societal issues into the stories of her characters. This story in particular really mirrored the two generations in the different generational POVs. There’s also some fun easter eggs for fans of prior Perez family novels, such as cousin Mirta (who I believe was in The Last Train to Key West) and cousin Rosa. I really appreciate how Cleeton has created such a cast of very different, very strong women and continues to weave them in each other’s stories.
I will note, compared to some of my favorite books in this series (The Last Train to Key West, Next Year in Havana, The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba), this book is a bit slower and more reminiscent of When We Left Cuba (which makes sense, as it’s set shortly after that book timeline wise). It’s still, however, well worth the read.
Overall: I have no idea when Ms. Cleeton plans to wrap up her writing on the Perez family, but I sincerely hope it’s not for a long, long while- I could read books about the Perez sisters forever!