... while Miller seeks the answer in a situation whose narratives are so familiar as to feel quotidian — romantic love, desperate to cross socioeconomic class — the novel’s setting, Haiti, may yet have something surprisingly new to say ... The real strength of this opening section lies not in the interiority of the characters or the chance of a surprise plot twist. Instead, interest and momentum emerge from the specificity of place Miller establishes around us: the daily rhythms of Haiti, the stark demands of a life lived amid capricious, grinding poverty, and the marvelous, salty exchanges that occur alongside it all ... Still, the novel’s arc is largely familiar: Boy meets girl, boy pursues girl, boy encounters the apparently insurmountable gulf of their class differences. The characters deepen some, but not in ways that truly drive the plot. Passion — almost entirely physical, it’s worth noting — yet wins the day. Anaya’s father intervenes, of course, and we wonder how the lovers will triumph; only once they do, the pace starts to flag. The novel’s perspective often appears troublingly traditional and masculine, Zo’s lovesick ambitions rendered in colonialist terms...But then there is a schism. A disaster occurs, truly harrowing in the scale and severity of its damage. Everything appears lost. Here the language is particularly arresting, its power at once direct and nameless; as elsewhere in the novel, Miller’s writing manages to be both passionate and economical, and when dialogue and physical scenes pop, they pop off. If the notes of drama here are occasionally struck too hard — in this scene’s climax, Zo is momentarily too superhuman — it’s nevertheless effective ... In the end there’s much that satisfies, not the least of which is bearing witness to tenderness and heroism, the depths of loneliness and peaks of romance — and, perhaps most important, the courage of an entire nation.
Miller’s debut is a provocative modern rendition of the Romeo and Juliet story. Set against the backdrop of a country ravaged by nature, and written in raw and affecting prose, Zo’s story takes the reader to the very limits of what a person will do for love.
... resonant ... Though Miller relies on tropes of Haitian history to move the story along, he does justice to his belief that Haitians have survived by saving themselves, not through outside intervention. While other writers better describe Haiti, the love story of Zo and Anaya tugs the heartstrings.