Review

Havana Lost

by Libby Fischer Hellmann

This multigenerational story crossing continents and decades begins in 1958 Cuba. Frankie, a pampered young woman whose politically connected father runs La Perla resort, chafes at being with an escort during a tumultuous time. But her attempts at independence affect several generations and even global political movements in this absorbing tale that will immerse readers in the culture and history of Cuba.

Fires and worse are happening, even on the street with the resort. Frankie’s father wants her to return to the States where she was born. She is to go with her boyfriend, Nick, who is attending business school in Philadelphia, to marry him and have his children. Her family talks about this as if it is established. But Frankie wants more, possibly to open a restaurant or do something other than have all decisions made for her. She accepts a promise pin from Nick, and then meets arresting stranger Luis.

"The revolution storyline and generational span read like a Mario Puzo story, but a strong and war-battered female ends up running the family in this intriguing saga."

Already upset by the plans to leave her beloved Cuba in a few days, Frankie sees Luis several times, with each encounter becoming more passionate and emotional. On her last night, she runs away with him. Luis is part of a political movement that wants to kidnap Frankie for ransom and help fund arms smuggling and government change. But Luis falls for her as well, and the two disappear together to a boarding house where Frankie spends her days working while Luis continues his revolution work. People are trying to find them, and eventually, the pair is separated. The next part of the story moves to Angola, where Luis and Ramon, the man who introduced him to Frankie, get involved with diamonds and meet with violence.

The action shifts again to the Chicago area in the 1990s where Michael, Frankie and Luis’s son, returns as an Iraq War vet and agrees to help his grandfather with a project for the Outfit in Cuba. He meets his father and also falls in love as his mother did in that country. The politics and ties to weapons and worse pull Michael to danger. He and Luis have a map to a mine that leads to more violence. 

Events move forward again to a bitter Frankie back in Chicago as she cares for Carla, Michael’s love, and her new granddaughter, Luisa. Frankie vows to finish the work of Luis and Michael and claim the riches she feels are hers. Her efforts put Luisa in danger, but Frankie feels she has no choice but to ensure a better future for her descendants.

As she does in her politically torn Iran story A BITTER VEIL, Libby Fischer Hellmann, an award-winning suspense and noir writer, crafts a well-researched story that brings 1958 and recent Cuba to vivid life. Details from food to fashion to class culture are well woven. The love stories of Frankie and her son add emotional layers to the history and politics. The revolution storyline and generational span read like a Mario Puzo story, but a strong and war-battered female ends up running the family in this intriguing saga.

Reviewed by Amy Alessio on October 4, 2013

Havana Lost
by Libby Fischer Hellmann