The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton
Publication Date : June 16th 2020
Publisher : Berkley
Genre : Historical Fiction
Pages : 320
In 1935 three women are forever changed when one of the most powerful hurricanes in history barrels toward the Florida Keys in New York Times bestselling author Chanel Cleeton’s captivating new novel.
Everyone journeys to Key West searching for something. For the tourists traveling on Henry Flagler’s legendary Overseas Railroad, Labor Day weekend is an opportunity to forget the economic depression gripping the nation. But one person’s paradise can be another’s prison, and Key West-native Helen Berner yearns to escape.
The Cuban Revolution of 1933 left Mirta Perez’s family in a precarious position. After an arranged wedding in Havana, Mirta arrives in the Keys on her honeymoon. While she can’t deny the growing attraction to the stranger she’s married, her new husband’s illicit business interests may threaten not only her relationship, but her life.
Elizabeth Preston’s trip from New York to Key West is a chance to save her once-wealthy family from their troubles as a result of the Wall Street crash. Her quest takes her to the camps occupied by veterans of the Great War and pairs her with an unlikely ally on a treacherous hunt of his own.
Over the course of the holiday weekend, the women’s paths cross unexpectedly, and the danger swirling around them is matched only by the terrifying force of the deadly storm threatening the Keys.
*** Note: I received e-copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to PRHGlobal for free copy. ***
The Last Train to Key West was gripping historical fiction that revolved around three women whose life changed after 1935 Labour Day hurricane. It was about effect of great depression on people’s life, horrible condition of WWI veterans in Key West camps, greatest hurricane of history, domestic violence, survival, courage, and love.
This turned out way much better than I expected. Writing was flawless, vivid, descriptive that gave it classic movie like feel. It was told in first person narrative from Helen, Mirta, and Elizabeth perspective. The setting of Key West with description of beaches, weather, veteran camps, Flagler’s railroad, community and their perspectives was amazing.
Plot was interesting. I loved the concept of life three women coming from different background to Keys, having their own problems whose path intersected and faced life changing event. It was character driven story that took place in 10 days with hurricane at the centre of it, adding tension in story. All characters were realistic and relatable and their stories were touching.
Helen was hard working waitress at Ruby’s diner who loved her job but life was hell with alcoholic and abusive husband. She often dreamt the death of her husband so she could finally be free from him. Now that due date was in few weeks and even after bearing his child he didn’t stop hurting her, she feared for her baby’s future. With a little push, a speck of courage and support of regular visitor at diner- a WWI veteran, John- she escaped her husband and went to Islamorada where she had to face storm and baby coming sooner than expected. Her dilemma of whether to leave her husband or not, fear of him coming after her, and how to start new life alone with baby coming soon was realistic. I can’t imagine how alone, helpless, and trapped she might be feeling in that marriage. I’m glad she found courage within her and escaped that monster. The way she faced storm and gave courage to John as well was great.
Mirta married to Anthony to save her family who was struggling after 1933 Cuban revolution. She arrived in Keys for her honeymoon with anxiety of newly wed wife and dilemma of marrying a stranger who had illicit business. She wasn’t sure what kind of man she married to and wasn’t happy for not having any say in marriage. But few days in Keys with him and looming storm, she saw a side of him that changed her view and feelings for him. I liked reading her thoughts, feelings, and uncertainty of what to expect from husband and marriage. I admired her straightforwardness, giving her marriage a chance, support and courage in time of storm and what happened during it. Her story was my favourite and I loved slow building romance and respect between her and Anthony.
Elizabeth was struggling after the great depression that took away everything she loved. With ill mother and huge debt that left no option but to accept offer of marrying man who loaned money to her father. To find another option and solution to her situation she ran away to Keys to find a man who might be living in veteran camps. On a way she met federal agent Sam Watson who offered to help her. I liked reading their thoughts on camp and government’s failure in paying bonus to veterans, why they were kept in such condition and shock of Elizabeth who didn’t understand what veterans were going through until she saw it. The mystery of reason behind why Sam was there and helping Elizabeth was total surprise but I like how things changed between them in middle of storm.
I can’t imagine how women were living in this time and with people who thought what happens between husband and wife was their business, not expecting others to help women, save her from abusive marriage, living in shadow of men with mindset their only job is pleasing men they married to, and their place is with husband whether they like it or not! Historical aspects were best part of the book. I could see author did a good research on the Great depression, Cuban revolution, how government failed to take care of WWI veterans, how society turned their back to veterans’ trauma, and the greatest hurricane of American history, and casualties. Most outrageous and heart rendering part was veterans having to face another tragedy in this hurricane.
Climax was tense and surprising. I was right who Elizabeth was searching for but my guesses were wrong with Sam’s intention, the man who was lurking near Mirta’s honeymoon house and the way he turned up in middle up storm, and everything happened after it. I worried for Helen and her baby and the way all characters were trying to survive in storm was frightening. End was perfect with bad characters taken care and main characters finding their love and looking forward to happy life.
Overall, The Last Train to Key West was interesting, well written and well researched historical fiction with great historical aspect and a little romance. If you don’t mind romance in historical fictions you will love this one.
I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know in comments what do you think about this book and my review, have you read this book already or any book by the same author. Which is favourite historical fiction?
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