Myriam J. A. Chancy | Haiti
I read this book as carefully as I could, then I closed my eyes and breathed deep. I felt sadness and gratefulness. I felt like I had just been given a gift of some sort, but I couldn’t figure out what or why. I walked around with a feeling of awe that I just learned what it must REALLY have felt like to live through that earthquake in 2010. And it was weeks later, after listening to various interviews, that I realized that it had to be Myriam Chancy to tell this story.
What Storm, What Thunder follows the lives of various characters who either live or use to live in Port-au-Prince when the earthquake happened in January 2010. Chancy gives her characters—all 10 of them—the grace to tell their stories with honesty and each voice tells the raw truth, pain, and loss the earthquake wrought on their lives. The numbing shock, and for some, the debilitating hopelessness, while others just strived to keep living with what was left.
What stood out to me the most was the dignity that Chancy restores to Haiti’s people through this book. She gives such grace to her characters that they tell their experiences without an agenda. That despite the political and economic hardships the country faces, its people are deserving of dignity. They are given agency in this book to say: this is the effect this earthquake had on me, my family, my friends, my neighbors, my community. This is where I was in my life before it happened, this is where I was when it happened, and this is how I’m coping now.
Chancy’s background as a scholar and educator not only gives her the credibility to tell this story, but she also spent many years after the earthquake giving lectures on various topics on Haiti. Each of her characters are well developed, nuanced, grappling with a unique set of circumstances that won’t leave you feeling like something’s missing from their story.
Is it gut-wrenching: yes. Is it heart-breaking: yes. Will you probably cry: yes, because I did. What Storm, What Thunder left me feeling a greater sense of understanding of what it means to survive the most painful and daunting of circumstances. It left me with a sense of empathy for those who lost loved ones, and it led me to be inquisitive about the political and economic agendas of those who claimed they wanted to help. This is a very important book that adds to the literary discourse on Haiti.
For more insight on What Storm, What Thunder, read my conversation with Myriam J. A. Chancy.
Interested in the Audio Version of This Review?
I’ve recorded an audio of my review of this book. Choose an option below to listen.