Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In Darkness ~ Nick Lake (eARC) review (blog stop)

In Darkness
Bloomsbury USA Children's
January 17, 2012
352 pages
add to Goodreads/buy on Amazon

In darkness I count my blessings like Manman taught me. One: I am alive. Two: there is no two.
After the Haitian earthquake of 2004, teenage 'Shorty' is trapped beneath the rubble of a hospital. There for a shooting wound, Shorty is now thirsty, hungry, scared, and alone in the darkness. Raised in the slum of Site Soleil Shorty has seen more violence in his short life than most of us will ever see. Drawn to the gangsters that rule his are, he has also become a part of it.

He has seen his father killed and his twin sister taken away. A twin sister he longs to find again. A twin sister who has the other half of his soul, someone he is linked with forever.

His long-lost twin is not the only one Shorty is linked with, though. He also has a link with Toussaint L'Ouverture. Two centuries ago, Toussaint led a slave rebellion to get the French out of Haiti.

As Shorty grows weaker and weaker in the darkness her relives his life, leading up to the bullet wound that brought him to the hospital. Toussaint's life and rebellion are also seen - as is what connects the two.

Can either of the two, living in Haiti, hundreds of years apart, ever be free?

I will say right away, that In Darkness is going to be a hard book for me to review. Something about it just did not engage me. The story is incredibly compelling. The way that the 2004 earthquake is used as a sort of catalyst for readers learning Shorty's story (or his telling it) is really fantastic - and perfect, too because it's not only something that did happen and was an overwhelming event but given the characters in the book, I can't think of another time (or reason) that any of them would sit down and reflect on their life.

I don't know why either I didn't connect with the book or it didn't connect with me. How the two stories were told (Toussaint's and Shorty's) through Then and Nows was very well done. They seemed to fade into each other well, without seeming jarring or like one was stopping or starting too suddenly.

In Darkness does let readers in on a part of Haiti - and I would say life in general - that is too seldom addressed both in fiction and nonfiction. Through Shorty's recollections and small mentions of his life in the Site, we see just how little they did/do have. And one can only imagine how much of that is likely gone now after the earthquake (and cholera). Nick Lake doesn't beat readers over the head with the hardships of his characters - fictional but from a real place - but sometimes its the subtlety that makes the most impact.

I would say that the last twenty of so pages did resonate with me. I did have more of a connection with them than with the rest of the book. It is a very strong ending that really pulls everything from the rest of the book together incredibly well.

I just could not get into this book, could not connect with it (or, therefore, the characters) though. (I may try to reread it sometime and see if we get on better then.)

Rating: 6/10

Thank you to Kate at Bloomsbury for my NetGalley copy of the novel

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