Great read about the Cuban refugee experience

filled star filled star filled star filled star filled star
irezelina Avatar


Thank you BookishFirst, author Thomas Bardenwerper and his publishing company for providing this ARC for me to review. The book arrived so fast and I finished reading it even faster. Once I started, I found myself getting caught up in the story and finished it within two days. It is more moving, suspenseful, and captivating than I had expected.

The story has two protaganists: Galan who was a Cuban refugee but now an American who lives in Puerto Rico; and Pat who is a Coast Guard officer that is stationed in Puerto Rico. The story starts with Galan's escape to Florida with his family as a young child, and the trip goes terribly wrong when the boat captain pushes his mother and younger sister into the water and proceeds without them. Galan and his father make it to Florida, where he grows up without seeing his mother or sister Gabriela again. Many years later when everyone has grown up to adulthood, he receives news that his mother has passed away and Gabriela (who has been emotionally and mentally stunted after the trauma) needs a new caretaker. Galan who felt responsibility and guilt for abandoning his sister for so long decides she needs to come live with him in Puerto Rico, but laws make it difficult for Gabriela to legally so Galan finds a human smuggler to do it.

Meanwhile, Pat is stationed in Puerto Rico working for the Coast Guard, and turns out to be Galan's neighbor. They meet on friendly terms and become fast friends since both of them are far from their families. Eventually, Galan tells Pat about Gabriela's situation and how he wants her to come to Puerto Rico, and Pat is conflicted on helping him because he would be enabling illegal activity. You should read the story to find out what happens next!

I think the action and suspense in the story make it really fun to read, but also I think it's probably really close to the truth and could possibly be real which makes it scary and impressive. The lengths people go to to get to US land is insane, and the dangers that come up along the way are unbelievable. It really makes me acknowledge how privileged I am to be taking my citizenship for granted, and how sheltered my life has been.

The story is separated into three parts, with the last one Part Three being super short. I feel like the author really tried to wrap up the story to provide some sort of closure, but there was still so much content, story to unravel, background to provide, points to be elaborated that this section should be longer. We are introduced to two new characters in the end and neither one of them get as much character development as Pat and Galan did in the previous parts. Honestly, the ending is still super open-ended so I don't see why we need Part Three if it's not going to be longer. Ending the book at Part Two seems more complete than the ending in Part Three, so please write more to make the last part more detailed and provide a more conclusive ending!

Also I have to mention the texture on the book is super cool. It has this velvety feel to it that makes the book feel soft and look matte instead of glossy. I did notice that the areas where my fingers held the book while reading started to take some of that texture off. Now there are patches of off-colored fingerprint sized areas blotching the book cover and it doesn't look that nice anymore. Those areas look lighter and kinda oily.

Overall I liked the story, I learned a lot about the Cuban refugee and Coast Guard experience, and I would recommend reading this book!