[T]oo often Haiti has been a stage for the kabuki performance of our good intentions, as well as a mirror reflecting the vanity of our exceptionalism, and it’s never a bad idea to look toward Haiti for a reality check on who we are in the world. Peacekeeping in that sense, is a welcome bearer of enlightenment and a raw reminder of the limits of empathy.
This is writing of a high order, and Berlinski demonstrates a continuous awareness of those heights—his conventionalities are superior to many writers’ originalities. Still, Peacekeeping like Berlinski’s first novel, is a very traditional book, in conception and form, and it unwittingly advertises the exploratory limits of a certain kind of conventional realism.
If Berlinski takes a misstep anywhere, it's in fluctuating so uncertainly between first-person and third-person narration. At times, his nameless novelist seems a well-deployed Conradian figure...At other times, when we're made privy to scenes that Berlinski's novelist couldn't possibly have witnessed or heard about, the narrative strategies don't feel fully under control. Still, in his chillier comments, Berlinski's narrator hits revealingly discomfiting notes...
The book’s detailed attention to political nuances can feel dry at times. Overall, however, the action is quick enough that it makes up for any occasional lags...The nation is a paradox, but Berlinski describes it honestly. Readers will be glad they made the trip.
The novel proves to be fascinating, but it’s the ending that clinches it as a remarkable story. The entire narrative comes together in one moment of sudden, unexpected shock that forever changes the lives of all involved in the story, including the future of Haiti. With Peacekeeping, Berlinski brings a quiet but vital nation to vivid, horrific, incredible life.