A stark account of life in Castro's Cuba and one young man's attempt to get out; from the author of Latin Jazz (1989). Julian Campos was supposed to emigrate with his parents to Miami, but was detained at the airport and told he must first perform military service; his parents chose to leave without him. Five years later, Julian lives on the outskirts of Havana with his beloved, ailing grandmother, who hopes the family will be reunited before she dies. Julian attends the university, but what he mostly does is wait--wait on line for rationed food, wait for his exit papers to come through. When he's finally called to the Ministry of the Interior, there's still another catch: he must ""volunteer"" to cut sugar cane for several months before being allowed to leave Cuba. Suarez uses simple direct language to tell of Julian's plight. The exhausting life of cane-cutter and sugarmill worker leaves little time or energy for reflection: Julian's emotions are mostly focused, intense and without elaboration--he wants to get out; he resents his parents for abandoning him. Despairing of a legal exit, he joins a plan to escape by boat, but plan and novel both go awry with the stereotyped treachery of a femme fatale. No lush tropicality, magic realism, or pastel prettiness here; in spite of flaws, Suarez's novel stands out for its unaccustomed tone, showing the day-to-day bleakness of a spirit-crushing Latin American regime.