Cover Image for Mona Passage

Two vessels converge in the dark off the Mona Passage near Puerto Rico and a young U.S. Coast Guard officer must make a decision that could save a life…or ruin his forever.

Mona Passage

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Print copy

Veterans Writing Award Honorable Mention

Off the coast of Puerto Rico, Lt. Pat McAllister’s Coast Guard cutter patrols the Caribbean Sea for drug traffickers and migrants. His best friend on shore, Galán Betances, is an entrepreneur who escaped Cuba by raft as a child, leaving his mother and his special-needs sister behind.

Pat and Galán bond during evenings spent atop their Calle Luna rooftop, as they share beers and trade stories from their distinct worlds. In time, Galán becomes like an older brother to Pat, whose actual beloved brother, Danny, is suffering back home from the emotional scars incurred as a soldier in Iraq.

When Galán returns to Cuba for his mother’s funeral – his first time back on the island since his traumatic departure decades before – he learns that his sister, who is now alone, will be committed to a poorly run mental health facility. With no way to bring her legally to the U.S., Galán considers whether Gabriela could make the risky journey to Puerto Rico via the Dominican Republic and Mona Passage. Pat, whose Coast Guard cutter routinely interdicts these boats loaded with migrants in search of a better life, warns Galán that such a journey will be treacherous—perhaps fatal. Aware of the dangers but determined for Gabriela to live a full life, Galán hands over all of the money he has to a Dominican smuggler based out of a San Juan nightclub, and Gabriela begins her terrifying journey.

Knowing that his cutter may be all that separates Galán and Gabriela—and haunted by the human suffering he has witnessed at sea—Pat must decide. Will he remain true to his oath, as his older brother had done in Iraq? Or will he risk his own future—and perhaps his freedom—for his closest friend?

Estimated Ship Date for Winners: July 27th, 2021


Thomas Bardenwerper

Thomas “Buddy” Bardenwerper served for five years as a Coast Guard officer aboard cutters homeported in Maine and Puerto Rico, participating in humanitarian and law enforcement missions from Canada to Colombia. Mona Passage is Bardenwerper’s first book.

Book Details

Publisher Syracuse University Press
Genre General Fiction
Publication Date Dec 15 2021
ISBN 9780815611394


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