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Last Updated on May 12, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 257

Jumping Off to Freedom is a harrowing account of life under the communist government in Cuba and of the desperate escape by four people from Cuba to America. David, the central character, begins the novel in jail where he has been held for questioning about the butchering of a state owned cow. Although he had little to do with the crime, the mere fact that he came under suspicion means that he will be watched by the government for the rest of his life. One false step and he would go to prison to stay.

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Partly because of the threat to David and partly because of the sheer misery of his family's existence, David's father Miguel decides to build a boat that he and his son could use to escape to Florida where he hopes to find work and to gain the release of his wife and daughter from Cuba. Such is the nearly intolerable fear of daily life in Cuba that others want to join the father and son on their trip, and two men make their way onto the boat, perhaps overloading it. To "jump off" is Cuban slang for "casting off on raft voyages" to escape Cuba, and much of the novel is an action-packed thriller as David and the three men flee patrols, encounter persistent sharks, cling to life through a fierce storm, and endure the elements of nature. The experience strips them to their essential personalities, driving one nearly mad and revealing hidden strengths of character in David and the ominous Toro.

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