At the end of a long, sweltering day, as markets and businesses begin to close for the evening, an earthquake of 7.0 magnitude shakes the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince. Myriam J. A. Chancy charts the inner lives of the characters affected by the disaster.
The characters and descriptions are so vivid, complex and memorable that I almost expected the book itself to quake, crack open and spill forth its cacophony of voices. Many of us are hungry for stories of survival and resilience in this precarious world where the for-grantedness of life is fractured. This book delivers ... A reader does not have to be familiar with Haiti to absorb the cultural themes and references in this novel. What better way to understand a culture than to listen closely to stories from people’s diverse perspectives and experiences? Chancy takes us there with her powerful writing ... In less skilled hands, a novel with multiple points of view can be frustrating, especially when we prefer one voice to another. In What Storm, What Thunder, I was immediately taken with each new voice. I delighted in that small but powerful thrill of recognition when a character reappeared in another person’s story, deepening both my understanding of them and the sense that we are all connected ... Chancy’s compassionate and harrowing novel reminds us we are all part of the collective.
Whether they’re linked by blood, love, or necessity, the characters’ collective memories of the earthquake offer a comprehensive and compelling range of perspectives—the myriad points of view so far-reaching that they effectively urge the reader to consider not only the lives on the pages, but the innumerable tragic stories that exist outside of Chancy’s writing ... With the distance afforded by time, space, and fiction, Chancy’s prose takes up a similar process. By fitting together a variety of perspectives and fragments of different lives, Chancy creates a kaleidoscopic lens of stories that gazes upon a singular event ... Chancy offers her readers the rare opportunity to view the earthquake’s aftermath from multiple angles, with every shadow of doubt, every glimmer of hope, illuminating the ever-expanding history of the catastrophe and its devastation.
... is as far as possible from a maudlin account of a terrible tragedy: It is a precise, albeit fictional, reconstruction of the many kinds of individuals and experiences during and after the tragedy; carving out the lives of those in Port-au-Prince markets or displaced-people (IDP) camps or in a cab in Boston with a razor-sharp palette knife ... Somehow — despite the stories of sexually exploited teenagers in IDP camps and the opportunistic monetization of water by a Haitian businessman — Chancy rarely tips into a state of utter hopelessness, nor does she strip away agency from even the most abject of people. She has unimpeachable credibility — and a clear purpose: People do persist, not merely suffer ... Chancy evokes for the reader a remarkably sober and intense proximity...Not since W. G. Sebald has somebody succeeded in evoking such a rich sense of the history of disaster.