Author Nick Lake provides an intertwined story based on two true events. The 2010 devastating earthquake in Haiti is dramatically fictionalized and the overthrowing of slavery hundreds of years earlier in Haiti is attempted to be told in as true a fashion as possible. "Shorty is a Haitian boy trapped in the rubble of a hospital when an earthquake shatters the world around him." From there the reader is taken on a mystical trip back through the history of Haiti as an enslaved island hundreds of years before. The true-life character Toussaint l' Ouverture who led the Haitian slaves to freedom, and current day "Shorty" have their life stories overlap and perhaps even become one and the same in the spiritual portals of time. Though the actual time spent describing the agony and fear of being trapped in a demolished building after a monstrous earthquake is small compared to the life stories of the two protagonists... the depiction of the absolute squalor and rampant everyday crime of modern Haiti is palpable.
When you realize that dying big-headed babies discarded in trash cans are almost as natural as the sun rising in the morning... and the fact that people really do eat *MUD-PIES-MADE-OF-MUD*... then a potential reader can begin to comprehend that something as devastating as an almost totally destructive earthquake... needn't be the scariest or most depressing part of this book.
The part of Haiti described in this book has frequently been named *THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACE ON EARTH!* The modern day depictions show a society that is completely dominated by "Rap" culture characters and the "murder is cool" way of life. Drugs are everywhere and a means to an end. Voodoo is omnipresent and boundaries are like mapped off war zones. Through it all... the story is interspersed with poetic gasps that range from:
"SUDDENLY, THE HOUNGAN STOPPED. THERE WAS SILENCE, BUT IT WAS LIKE THE SILENCE YOU GET BEFORE THUNDER, OR BEFORE A DOG BARKS. THEN HIS HEAD SNAPPED ROUND TO LOOK AT ME, AND HIS EYES WEREN'T HIS EYES ANYMORE, BUT WERE LIKE GATES THAT HAVE BEEN OPENED, AND THERE WAS EMPTINESS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THEM, AND IT MADE YOUR HEAD HURT, LIKE WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT HOW BIG INFINITY IS."
"WE WEREN'T JUST CHILDREN. THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS CHILDREN IN SITE SOLEY, ONLY SMALLER STARVING PEOPLE, ONLY SMALLER DEAD PEOPLE."
And... the beauty of a brother's love for his sister:
"YOU DIDN'T HAVE ANY CHOICE BUT TO FOLLOW MARGUERITE. I DON'T KNOW IF I CAN REALLY EXPLAIN THAT WITHOUT YOU SEEING HER. IT WAS LIKE... IT WAS LIKE HER PERSONALITY WENT IN FRONT OF HER, BRIGHT, LIKE A REVERSE SHADOW. YOU FELT THE FORCE OF HER FROM METERS AWAY."
This is a very unique book... that though based in an earthquake... takes you many miles and years away from it.