Fifteen-year-old Shorty is trapped in the rubble of a Haitian hospital after an earthquake. As he lays among the ruins, he recounts his life and how he came to be this building, the victim of a gun shot wound. He was born “in darkness” and now his life seems to being ending “in darkness”. During this reflection, he senses another entity. Little does he know it is the spirit of Touissant L’Ouveture, reaching out to him from across two hundred years. Like Shorty, Touissant’s life was full of violence. He was a former slave turned revolutionary leader who ended up ending his life in a dark, French prison cell. Side by side, their stories on fold leaving the reader with a sense of the cyclical nature of history and the violent past that has haunted Haiti since the beginning.
At first, I really wondered about most of the hype and what kept me reading was to find out whether or not Shorty made it out alive. I also wanted to find out more about Touissant as I have not had much background in Haitian history. When the book was over, I was satisfied with the ending and didn’t regret reading it. However, I still thought it was getting too much press especially considering some of the violent and detailed scenes and killings. In the back of mind, I really thought for YA book this may be a little too much. Thus, it has taken me this long to write a review.
Now, two weeks later, and many discussions about this book with others (mostly praising it and suggesting others read it), I fully appreciate the complexities of this book. Truly, Lake has written a novel full of the misunderstandings of those of the face of greed, the violence that begets violence, the desperation of a country to leave behind a corrupt political system, the cyclical nature of history, and the life of a boy marred by revenge and misunderstanding. Shorty represents many who live in a world a violence and cannot get out of that lifestyle as it is all he knows. He has not learned the history of his people and see that once again, they have become slaves to a system that only caters to those who can get into the right positions. Both he and Touissant are misunderstood by those closest to them and only do what they do in order to survive and get what they want but see that getting what they want is not always possible.
I really don’t want to get into too much more as I’m afraid I will give away more of the book than is necessary. This is a wonderful book for both YA’s and adults. Highly recommended! Enjoy!