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God Loves Haiti by Dimitry Elias Léger

An inspired and nuanced portrayal of politics and love, with a backdrop of natural disaster.

Dimitry Elias Léger’s debut novel, God Loves Haiti, takes place in the days just before, during and after the devastating earthquake that struck Port-au-Prince in 2010. Those 35 seconds, coupled with the mayhem and aftershocks that followed, killed hundreds of thousands, but among the survivors are a politically important old man, a vibrant younger one and the woman who has recently chosen between them but still struggles with her choice. Natasha is an artist, deeply passionate about her painting, though she’s also passionate about the poet Dante, her religion and the politics and business that engross her husband and her boyfriend. All three have different relationships to the colorful Haitian community, which is epically short on resources for everyday life, let alone a disaster of these proportions. All three choose and experience different paths after the quake hits.

Asking big questions is part of Léger’s charm, but although subjects like love, religion, sin, redemption and national identity and value seem particularly weighty against this backdrop of human suffering, the novel has thoroughly winning comic moments, too. The narrative jumps around in time to visit each member of the love triangle before and after the earthquake, and to track each character’s development. The atmosphere Léger evokes manages simultaneously to be heartrendingly realistic and dreamlike: the survivors of tragedy and disturbing pain naturally operate with heightened and distorted perceptions. The irregular chronology, quick pacing and lyrical prose combine for an artistic success that is both surprising and satisfying.

This review originally ran in the January 6, 2015 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!

Rating: 7 aerial views.

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