The Haitian earthquake of 2010 makes an unusual setting for a romantic comedy, but this novel manages to beautifully balance the devastating impact of the unexpected seismic event alongside celebrating bonds of affection and the resilience of the human spirit. A love triangle between twenty-year-old artist Natasha Robert; her new husband, the president, forty years her senior; and Alain, the lover she has abandoned in the hope of escaping the confines of her native country. The novel opens with a bang in the rubble of the airport, with the reader sharing Natasha’s initial disorientation; only moments before, she was climbing the steps to the plane that was to take her and her husband to a better life in Italy.
Dimitry Elias Léger was born in Haiti and educated mostly in the United States. He returned as an adviser to the United Nations disaster recovery operations and his prose sings with fine detail of life and death amongst the wreckage. The air is thick with cement dust; the survivors’ cries of agony mingle with the chimes of mobile phones; and the UN needs only twenty-four hours to rig up air conditioning in a tent on what used to be the airport runway when, in the presidential palace, it had been defective for years. This is bittersweet story of international and interpersonal relations; of sin and redemption; ambition and loyalty; and, like The Narrow Road to the Deep North, survival in extremis. (My own 99-word homage to the novel can be found on this post on disorientation which, although I was too disorientated at the time to notice, was my 200th post.)
I got quite excited on discovering that Natasha was an artist, reminding me of a fascinating exhibition Haitian art I saw last year. I couldn’t begin to describe it, so here’s the curator to introduce it.