By Vania Andre
The earthquake that rolled through Haiti six years ago represented one of the most devastating natural disasters in modern history. It’s impact was profound with more than 200,000 dead, millions displaced and an estimated $13 billion in damages. Will Loiseau’s “Quake: Hope and Horror In Haiti” follows Jean Carmelo and his parents as they travel to Haiti for his grandmother’s funeral two days before the earthquake in 2010.
Infused with subtle mystical cues of an impending doom for the first few chapters, Loiseau suggests from the onset of the novel that the earthquake was not only a natural disaster, but also a response from the earth to the people of Haiti.
“The earth had something to say. It’s pulsating energy and stubborn grip held the world’s full attention,” he writes. “Still, there was a glimmer of light and hope.”
As Jean Carmelo, his mother Rose and disabled father Jules travel to Haiti from Florida, feelings of anxiety plague their trip. Jean Carmelo, who has not been back to the country for years, is “consumed with anxiety” as he wonders about the state of Haiti and how much it’s changed.
Once in Haiti, Louiseau incorporates details that are characteristic to life in Haiti. From the brazen stares of locals as they study your “mannerisms, attire and bags” to determine whether or not you’re a member of the Diaspora, and thus a worthy target to “run game on,” to images of old men playing dominoes and checkers as motorbikes zoom up and down busy streets.
Just as it had occurred in reality, the earthquake takes readers by surprise half way through a seemingly uneventful chapter. Louiseau captures the confusion that ensues during and immediately after the quake as people wonder whether it was the end of the world or a bomb, but least of all an earthquake.
The rest of the novel moves along rapidly compared to the first half of the book as Louiseau details Jean Carmelo’s journey out of the rubble and back to safety and hope in the days following the quake. As he and his family make their way through the ravaged country, Louiseau highlights the harshness of reality in Haiti. Death and disaster are in plain view for all to see.
“Jean Carmelo couldn’t imagine so many bystanders being so close to a scene that gruesome back in the United States,” he writes, as Jean Carmelo passes by mangled bodies pulled out of collapsed buildings. “Law enforcement officials would have blocked off the streets with yellow tape, and the scene would have been crawling with paramedics, and authority figures. There was no such thing in Port-au-Prince.”
“Quake: Hope and Horror In Haiti” is a reminder of the 40 seconds of horror that forever changed the course of Haiti, but reinforced unwavering resilience of the Haitian people.