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  • Writer's pictureLee Weaver


Updated: Jan 3



CUBA!! HAVANA!!!  The mere names stir my enthusiasm!  Undergird those names with the Battleship Maine; San Juan Hill; Teddy Roosevelt; the Bay of Pigs; the Cuban missile crisis; revolution!!!  How much excitement can one experience?

It has been said many times: the greater regrets are those of things NOT done – rather than actual happenings or events. One of my greater regrets is that I never got all the travel events pulled out of my bucket list.  Uncle Sam drafted me in the Army and provided transportation to visit Korea and Japan.  Much later I got to visit England and Ireland; France, Belgium, and the Netherlands; Germany and Austria; The Slovak Republic; then still later Israel and Colombia; each and all exciting in their own way; but Cuba stands high on my wish list! 

The closest I’ve been to the Caribbean is high in the sky, flying over from Miami, Florida to Bogota, Colombia, the islands hardly more than specks from 35,000 feet overhead.  Among those islands are names that stir the imagination: US Virgin Islands, St Croix, Martinique; and not least among the great is Cuba – in my mind, the land of Hemingway, the land of intrigue!  Intrigue in the sinking of the Maine, in the introduction of Russian missiles. But more to the present considerations – the land of Hemingway. 

Despite what some would describe as a life debauched, Ernest Hemingway was a writer of acclaim. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and the Nobel Prize in literature in 1954, “for his mastery of the art of narrative, most recently demonstrated in The Old Man and the Sea, and for the influence that he has exerted on contemporary style.”  Hemingway was a storyteller, and to the continuing good fortune of present and future generations, he committed his stories to paper.  Hemingway is one of the great names among authors of American literature.  Even so, sometimes his short stories fail to show his creative writing, even displaying his darker side.  In this writer’s estimation, “The Indian Camp” was clearly a failure to give credit to Hemingway’s great storytelling; it’s as if his novels and short stories are written by two different authors.  (Caveat: I’ve read more of his novels than his short stories. Notwithstanding “The Indian Camp” Ernest Hemingway was a great author.)

Ernest Hemingway’s life had ups and downs like a yoyo.  When he was up, he was turning out novels that earned a spot in great American literature and earned a fortune for the author.  When he was down, he was in a hospital being given electro-shock treatments.  He was thought to have experienced hemochromatosis, an iron metabolism deficiency which has side effects including fatigue and depression.  Depression was a frequent presence in Hemingway’s life.  One considers whether the condition may be hereditary: Ernest’s father, two siblings, and a granddaughter all took their own lives.  (After Ernest’s death at his place in Idaho, his wife tried to characterize it as an accident while cleaning a gun, but it is commonly understood to have been suicide.)   

Welp, this started out to be all about Cuba! but somehow Hemingway got involved.  Considering his long ties to the island, the fact that he lived there twenty years, and the fact he is almost revered there, it just naturally turned that way.  Even so, in perusing through the book stacks at a local library I came across books by Chanel Cleeton.  Originally from Florida, Ms. Cleeton grew up on stories of her family’s exodus from Cuba following the Cuban Revolution.   Her books that I’ve enjoyed reading are When We Left Cuba, Next Year in Havana, The Last Train to Key West, and The Cuban Heiress.

The family history stirred her interest in politics and history, and she pursued a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the American International University in London, followed by a master’s degree in global politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Ms. Cleeton also received her Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law.  (I’m sure many lawyers have written textbooks and legal tomes, but how many have been successful at writing entertaining novels, as have Cleeton and Grisham?) Visitors to Cuba will enjoy unforgettable, unrivaled experiences: exotic foods, rhythmic music, colonial architecture, Caribbean culture and history.

Regardless of your desire (or lack thereof) to visit Cuba, Chanel Cleeton’s novels are engrossing, hard to put down.

© Lee Weaver

November 2023

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