The Boy Who Said No, An Escape To Freedom
The Boy Who Said No is a novelised version of the true story of a young man’s escape from Cuba to the USA . Frankie is a young teen when Castro comes to power in Cuba and the story details the harsh reality of life under the dictator’s policies. The prior regime may have been corrupt, but Fidel’s policies bring greater suffering for the majority of people, at least from Frankie’s point of view. As time progresses it become more and more clear that things are not going to get better. Some think the Americans will come and rescue them, but that hope soon fades.
Frankie is clever and is taken away to join a special forces unit in the army. He has no choice in the matter, but becomes highly skilled at his job, the top guy in the team. He finds it hard, however, not to occasionally speak his mind about the huge gap between what the party tells them is true (eg that the people are better off) and what is actually true (they aren’t). This brings him into a difficult relationship with one of his superiors, the one that’s there to make sure that they all toe the party line.
Frankie is also in love, a sweet, pure and passionate love with a pretty girl. They plan to marry one day, but her family decides to leave the country. Magda is distraught, she cannot go without Frankie, and her family understand, for he has become almost part of the family. She cannot stay alone. There is no work, and when her family leave the state will take everything they owned. She will be destitute. The government will never let Frankie leave because he has top secret information about their weapons systems. He’s their top operator. So he decides to escape by boat. They will leave and he will join them as soon as he can.
What follows is a story of determination, bravery, and self-sacrifice driven by love – a powerful combination. Escaping this way is not easy, it is, in fact, deadly for many, and when Frankie’s superior finds him gone from the base, he is determined to find him and shoot him on sight as a traitor. Frankie is a likeable and inspiring character. He shows intelligence in outwitting those searching for him, and unquestioning love for Magda in his determination to join her.He also cares for all those people who help him.
The story of Frankie’s escape shows how much affect one person’s actions can have on another’s survival in such situations. The only reason Frankie avoids capture by the authorities is because of the friends and family who stay true to him and their beliefs.
They risk prison and torture to help him get to his beloved in the states. They do not support the party. They don’t tell anyone, of course, freedom of speech disappeared very quickly, but they don’t do anything to overtly help the authorities find him, even when they are the authorities. At least two people in positions of power, ordinary people, one the head of a police unit and the other the head of the coast guard say no to the party official. The first will not hunt down an ordinary person as if he was a murderer, and the second will not risk an international incident, and possibly start a war, because one party official is determined not to let Frankie get away.
The actions of such people are in stark contrast to those who use their role as members of the party as an excuse to bully others. The story of the little boy who has his shoe shine business closed because private enterprise is not allowed, is sad indeed.
The book is very well written and paced. The plot builds to a great climax and one that shows the USA in its best light, that of the land of freedom. Whether or not that vision of Frankie’s remains after he arrives in the state, or not, we shall have to wait for another book to see.
Anyone who has any reticence about allowing refugees to find a place in their country should read this book. Though this is about Cuba back in the early seventies, the plight of refugees anywhere is essentially the same. Why do they risk everything this way? Because things at home are intolerable. If we are to treat refugees with the compassion that every human being deserves, we need to understand their situation on a personal level. This book will do that for you. The question you will ask yourself is what would you have done if you were Frankie?