Monday, 5 May 2014

In Darkness: Nick Lake (Haiti)

In darkness I count my blessings like Manman taught me. One. I am alive. Two. There is no two. Haiti 2010: In the aftermath of the earthquake a boy lies trapped beneath the rubble: terrified, thirsty and alone. Shorty is a child of the slums, a teenager who has seen enough violence to last a lifetime and who has been inexorably drawn into the world of the gangsters who rule his broken city: men who dole out money with one hand and death with the other. But Shorty has a secret: a flame of revenge that burns inside him, fuelling his determination to find his beloved twin sister, stolen from him five years ago. In the darkness the lines between the present and the past begin to blur and, as Shorty fights for life, his struggle becomes part of a two-hundred-year-old story - a story of courage and betrayal, of freedom and of hope. Shorty may not be quite as alone as he believes...

This wonderful book which skilfully interweaves the lives of the two leading characters, is set partly during the 2010 Haitian earthquake and partly during the formation of an independent Haiti, the only country to be born from a slave rebellion.

The book is narrated by a teenage boy trapped in the wreckage of a collapsed building as he relives his life. This is a short life that has been marred by violence, and the loss of his father and twin sister. The story is skilfully interweaved with tales from the life of Toussaint L'Ouverture, a real life person, who led the slave rebellion that led to independence. It becomes clear that the two characters share a bond - and if you believe in such things, a soul.

The author vividly recreates the two Haiti's, both past and present, exploring the birth of this nation and its somewhat violent and troubled present. The Voodoo religion is always present and the book explores many of the myths surrounding this - what Voodoo is and how it works.

This was a somewhat dark and disturbing book, and perhaps not for the faint hearted, but this is what I love about books like this - the opportunity to explore these themes and learn so much about the world and its history. I suspect that this is book that will stay with me for a while.

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