Mona Passage

Author: Thomas Bardenwerper

Publisher: Syracuse University Press

Release Date: December 15,2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The bond between neighbors can be as strong as family! Such a strong debut novel!

Galan Betances is a Cuban who emigrated to Florida when he was young.  The trip was terrible and although his whole family was supposed to make the journey, his mother grabbed his sister and jumped off the raft at the last minute, leaving Galan with his father who was determined to leave Cuba behind.  Several years later, Galan is now living in San Juan, Puerto Rico when he hears of his mother’s passing.  His sister, Gabriela, is still in Cuba and she is a simple person who cannot care for herself and family seem to want to put her in an institution rather than take care of her.  Plus, the Obama administration is changing the policy where Cubans will be viewed as any other immigrant.  His only hope may be to try to smuggle her into Puerto Rico through the Mona Passage, which is carefully guarded by the United States Coast Guard.

Pat McAllister is a coast guard lieutenant who has just taken a station in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  He patrols the open seas in a cutter built to outrun and overtake human traffickers.  His new neighbor, Galan, has been a tremendous help to get him situated around the town and takes care of him like an older brother.  Pat watched his own older brother suffer from his time in Iraq and wants to do his country proud, but when he learns of Galan’s problems, he knows he faces a crucial decision in his life.  Will he be loyal to his country?  Or his best friend?

What a storyline to begin closing out 2021.  Having spent a large amount of time in San Juan and Aguadilla personally, I jumped at the chance to read this story.  Needless to say, the author has either spent some time on the island himself or did some great research.  His knowledge of the way of life in San Juan was impeccable from who hangs out at which bar to what beer is served.  Not to mention the description of local cuisine made my mouth water. 

Onto the story itself.  It takes no time at all to become friends with both Pat and Galan.  So much so that you grieve with Galan and want to knock some sense into Pat from time to time.  The characters were well fleshed out and realistic.  The tension that built up during the end of the story kept the pages turning so that I couldn’t put it down.  Sure, there is some language here and there, but nothing that takes away from the story.  There were also some sex related scenes, but nothing overally graphic. 

Both main characters battle inner conflict throughout the book all the way until the ending.  Now, I’m really not a fan of the ending of this book. I get the purpose of it, but still.  It’s just not the way I wanted it to go, but sometimes an author has to do what an author has to do!

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

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