The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton, Narrated by Kyla Garcia, Rachel L. Jacobs, and Karissa Vacker

Published June 16th 2020 by Penguin Audio, Berkley

5 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I just finished listening to this book and I really enjoyed it. Wintering in Florida, I had heard about the hurricane that destroyed the Florida Keys as well as the burgeoning Flagler Railway, but I did not know about the veterans that were killed or how bad it really was. This was an eye opener for me and brought the plight of living in the Keys anytime during the hurricane season to light. Chanel Cleeton put faces to the story in this book. She writes from the perspective of strong female characters and this was no exception. Although they might not have seemed strong all the time, they showed what they were made of when they needed to.

Mirta Perez was married off to an American Gangster, one who owned the first casinos on Cuba. Her father’s fortune took a huge hit when Batista came to power and he basically sold her off. Helen Birner was a waitress, 9 months pregnant and married to an abusive man. Elizabeth Preston was a New York debutante whose father and brother committed suicide when the depression hit. Unfortunately for her, the family was in debt to another gangster and she was forced into an engagement with him to save her mother. All these women are facing difficult situations when they all end up in the Florida Keys. I do not want to give away the plot, but will say that they all make decisions and act upon them in order to change their situations.

The story is set Labour Day weekend in 1937, when the worst hurricane to ever hit the American shores hits the Florida Keys. The women all cross paths at one time or another that weekend and develop a somewhat complicated friendship. I liked all three of these women. I liked that they were all trying to make their way in the world and were willing to take a chance and make a changes so their lives would be what they wanted them to be. I found myself rooting for all of them and hoping that they would all survive the tragic storm. I found it interesting to hear about the WWI veterans who were living in work camps helping to build Flagler’s Railway, known as Flagler’s Folley. I was out on the internet googling to get more information about all that happened in the book. Although the gangsters were not real, there were real persons that certainly fit their descriptions. This was a well written and plotted story. I liked that there was some romance, but it was woven so completely into the story that it did not overtake the drama and action in the overall story. If you have not read this one, I definitely recommend it. I know I will think about these characters for a long time to come.

The audiobook was exceptional. Each of the main characters was given their own voice by one of the wonderful narrators: Kyla Garcia, Rachel L. Jacobs, and Karissa Vacker. Their expression, tone, and voice made this book even more enjoyable. I highly recommend it.


The Last Train to Key West

About the Book (From Goodreads): In 1935 three women are forever changed when one of the most powerful hurricanes in history barrels toward the Florida Keys.

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.

After the Cuban Revolution of 1933 leaves Mirta Perez’s family in a precarious position, she agrees to an arranged marriage with a notorious American. Following her wedding in Havana, Mirta arrives in the Keys on her honeymoon. While she can’t deny the growing attraction to her new husband, his illicit business interests may threaten not only her relationship, but her life.

Elizabeth Preston’s trip to Key West is a chance to save her once-wealthy family from their troubles after 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.