Thomas “Buddy” Bardenwerper Mona Passage

Thursday, June 9, 2022

5:30 p.m.

Sawtelle Reading Room (first floor of 1805 Building)


On a moonless night, two vessels converge in the Mona Passage, a stretch of ocean separating Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. One is a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, the other a primitive motorboat overloaded with Cuban migrants. In that moment, a young Coast Guard officer must make a decision that could save the life of a woman he knows while possibly ruining his forever. Mona Passage is the story of two neighbors in San Juan, Puerto Rico: Pat McAllister, a Coast Guard officer whose cutter patrols the Caribbean Sea for drug traffickers and migrants, and Galán Betances, an entrepreneur who escaped Cuba by raft as a child, leaving his mother and his special-needs sister behind.

Thomas “Buddy” Bardenwerper brings a fresh perspective in Mona Passage: A Novel for readers interested in underrepresented voices in American fiction. By giving a voice to both the migrants who cross our maritime borders as well as those young Americans whose unenviable duty it is to stop them, Mona Passage challenges the contemporary narratives regarding immigration.

Tobias Wolff—the final round judge for Syracuse University Press’s inaugural Veterans Writing Award—selected Mona Passage for publication.

Wolff writes of Bardenwerper’s work:

“Moving in its portrait of families divided by the hostilities of their governments, in this case Cuba and the United States. The narrative is persuasive in its characterization of both Cubans and Americans, its evocation of San Juan, Havana, and life aboard a Coast Guard cutter responsible for intercepting Cuban refugees and sending them back to the country they had good reasons to flee. Certainly a suspenseful, humane novel.”

Athenaeum Proprietor Ed Caylor recently reviewed Buddy’s book. Click here to read it.

Masks are required. To sign up for the event, please call 603-431-2538 or email


About the Author:

Bardenwerper served for five years as a Coast Guard officer, including two years aboard cutter Reliance when it was homeported at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Thanks to the GI Bill and Yellow Ribbon Program, Buddy will be earning a joint degree from Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School this month.



For more information on Buddy Bardenwerper, click the button below.