Caleb, a fictional Coast Guardsman, falls in love with Caribé, a Dominican woman he rescues, and they attempt to relocate during her illegal escape from the Dominican Republic.
Set within the rough confines of poverty, Caribé’s story—though fictional—addresses the experience of Caribbean citizens who risk their lives to reach the promise of a better life in the U.S. After losing her family at sea when a previous escape attempt goes awry, Caribé is more determined than ever to leave behind the Dominican Republic and its looming threats to her safety. As she struggles to raise enough money to both survive and fund her escape, Caribé continues to dodge violent intimidations from Raul, a drug trafficker bent on using her for the trade. Once able to pay for the next yola headed for America, she struggles with the fear, starvation and filth that accompany illegal immigration. Days later, the U.S. Coast Guard stops her boat after it loses engine power, and the dehydrated passengers are transferred to the Coast Guard’s cutter to be transported back home. Amid the chaos, Caribé meets Caleb, a young member of the Coast Guard responsible for rescuing her yola; upon returning to Dominican shores, they bond over the rescue. Caleb’s crew regularly returns to the port, so he begins to see Caribé for meals, drinks and travel, before they exchange contact information and make plans for future visits. As Caleb falls for her, despite mocking from his crew, Caribé works to maintain an image that hides her hardships from him. Their love growing, the couple faces challenges to their relationship from forces greater than themselves—the complex, tragic systems of nationality and privilege that govern the world. Yet the story becomes rather one-dimensional, as the omniscient narrator focuses too much on romance, foregoing the realistic depiction of the disproportionate struggles they face. Although the narrator lingers on the details of Caleb’s life aboard his ship, readers will lose a sense of Caribe’s life as a Caribbean woman dealing with impressive hardships: potential poverty, national unrest, complex racial structures, etc. Although at times the dialogue can be overworked, the rewarding passages artfully capture love confronting the region’s unavoidable ethnic and national stigmas.
An uneven portrait of difficult love.