The Lonely Crossing of Juan Cabrera A Novel

J. Joaquin Fraxedas

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

192 Pages



Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy

In the middle of a moonlight night on a deserted beach east of Havana, three men slide a flimsy makeshift raft into the surf. A lonely father, a disillusioned ex-soldier, and a frightened professor—all desperate to escape a society gone wrong—are driven to risk an incredible journey. They must somehow cross the more than ninety miles of treacherous waters that separate Cuba from the Florida Keys.

Juan Cabrera, Professor of Physics at the University of Havana, whose father "disappeared" after the Revolution and whose lover, Carmen, a well-known painter and propagandist, defected in Berlin. Raul, a fearless working-class adventurer just returned from the war in the jungles of Angola, who longs for connection and total love. Andres, the oldest of the three, whose last wish in life is to be reunited with his daughter, Margarita, who lives in Miami.
Together these three very different men defy the elements in a rite of passage that tests their spirit as harshly as the sea tests their endurance. When word reaches Miami that three balseros have set out just as hurricane warnings begin to come over the radio, a Cuban-American pilot takes to the sky in his private plane in a frantic search to locate the three. In this powerful novel, J. Joaquín Fraxedas has crafted an epic story of men, women, and the sea that will change their lives forever.


Praise for The Lonely Crossing of Juan Cabrera

"Fraxedas tells a compelling, vividly human story."—Chicago Tribune

"Hauntingly lyrical. Highly accomplished. Finely wrought. Fraxedas forces us to look hard at ourselves and at our notions of courage. His lonely crossing is our own."—St. Petersburg Times

"Highly recommended . . . This modern odyssey is based on the author's interviews as a volunteer rescue pilot with Cuban refugees who, under cover of darkness, waded off into the 90-mile strait between Cuba and Florida clutching any flotation available. Juan Cabrera, a Cuban professor of physics and astronomy who learned early to deny his upper-class origins, persuades two friends to escape with him on a raft made of three inner tubes. One, Andres, is shot by the Cuban coast guard even before they start while the other, Raul, is eaten by a shark. Juan survives, but only after the death of the volunteer pilot who spots him. Juan faces the task of building a new life but also the greater struggle of resolving his guilt for living at the expense of three others. This novel perfectly captures the pathos of Cuba."—Jack Shreve, Library Journal

"Three men flee Castro's Cuba in 1990 on a makeshift raft bound for Florida in this harrowing, taut yet lyrical first novel. Fraxedas, who escaped Communist Cuba at the age of 10 and now practices law in Orlando, has flown rescue missions to pick up Cuban raft people, and he puts his firsthand knowledge to good use. The protagonist, physics professor Juan Cabrera, watches helplessly as gunmen on a Cuban patrol boat fatally shoot one of his two companions; later, his other mate is devoured by a shark in a terrifyingly real scene. Other scenes introduce Juan's girlfriend Carmen, an artist who once worked for Castro's propaganda machine but recently defected to Miami, where we are introduced to an assortment of Cuban exiles aching with longing for their homeland. The main focus, however, is on Juan's inner struggle to overcome his massive guilt for decades of silently accommodating a tyrannical regime. Flashbacks graphically reenact the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, showing how CIA officers' condescension toward Cuban recruits contributed to disaster."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



  • J. Joaquin Fraxedas

  • A graduate of the University of Florida College of Law, J. Joaquín Fraxedas first established a distinguished career in civil trial practice, specializing in the trial of medical, products liability, and other complex cases, before concentrating exclusively on the practice of mediation and alternative dispute resolution. He lives in Florida. The Lonely Crossing of Juan Cabrera is his first novel.