"A suspenseful, humane novel, moving in its portrait of families divided by the hostilities of their governments, in this case Cuba and the United States."—Tobias Wolff
"Thomas Bardenwerper will keep you engaged to the very last page with this well-crafted and often thrilling exploration of moral quandaries that challenge us all."—E. J. Dionne Jr., author of Code Red
"What would you risk for a sister, a brother, a friend, a stranger? Mona Passage is one of those rare novels that will expand your heart."—Janet Benton, author of Lilli de Jong
"An engrossing five-star read from a talented new author—not to be missed!"—Jim Howe, author of Red Crew
"Captures the maritime mood that evokes Hemingway and marries it with the terse, tense dialog of Elmore Leonard. He wraps it all in a political swirl of current events, romance and a plucky plot."—Michael Fabey, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist and author of Crashback: The Power Clash Between the U.S. and China in the Pacific
"Mona Passage is a fast-paced storm of an adventure that seizes you on the first page, and doesn’t let go until the very end."—Adrian Bonenberger, author of Afghan Post
"This exciting debut novel brims with elements from Bardenwerper’s days at sea. I recommend it for anyone who wants to understand those souls caught on the edge of the American empire."—Brian Castner, author of The Long Walk
"Bardenwerper has crafted a chilling tale of intrigue and courage, which covers the range of human emotion and demonstrates the lengths to which people will go to circumvent the law, even if it means risking one’s life or ending a career."—Peter McShane, author of Save a Life, Take a Life; Green Beret Medic in Vietnam and the Passage Home
Mona Passage is the story of two neighbors in San Juan, Puerto Rico: Galán Betances, a Cuban emigrant, and Pat McAllister, a young Coast Guard officer. During long evenings spent together talking on their Calle Luna rooftop, a deep friendship develops based on shared traumas and a common desire to heal. When Galán learns that his sister, Gabriela, is going to be committed to a mental health facility in Cuba, he plans her escape to Puerto Rico. Pat, whose Coast Guard cutter patrols the Mona Passage for drug traffickers and migrants, 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 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?
On a moonless night, two armed vessels converge in the Mona Passage, and three lives change forever.
Thomas "Buddy" Bardenwerper served for five years in the US Coast Guard. He is currently pursuing a JD and a master’s in public policy at Harvard Law School and the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Series: Veterans Writing Award
6 x 9, 0 pages, 1 maps