A disappointing first novel from a Haitian-American journalist that—despite a detailed rendering of the horrors of Haitian life- -is a work of docufiction relying on nasty docufacts rather than on the even nastier but more instructive workings of the human heart. The title—a quote from one Doctor Sylvie, who notes that if you want to know how people live ``you have to look somewhere else- -under the bone''—promises a work of the imagination that will help explain the continuing darkness of Haitian history. Instead, a variety of narrators—witnesses for the prosecution as it were- -prove that the military successors of the notorious deposed Duvalier family, despite promises of reform, are just as vicious, with their own band of bully-boys to replace the Duvaliers' infamous Tonton Macoutes. The voices include Leslie, a self- righteous American human-rights worker who has come to Haiti to document the plight of women prisoners; Elyse, a young woman who's imprisoned and tortured because she reported seeing a dead body, and whose plight becomes the focus of Leslie's investigation; Gerard, a civil-rights lawyer; his wife, the beautiful and wise Jeanne; Dr. Sylvie, a prison doctor who knows how to subvert the system; and Emmanuel, an activist priest. The investigation involves all of them, but this is no gripping journey into the dark belly of the beast: rather, we get a prolonged excursion through case-studies, documents, set-piece meetings with courageous union members; crass US government officials; and Leslie's musings on whether to have an affair with her driver, Clemard. While the characters and the story are lifeless, inadequate warriors for the good fight, the actual place is vividly evoked—a place of beauty, of ``bright turquoise seas.'' Understandable emotions better served from the sidelines than the midst of battle, where the cause is all. Too much a documented brief, too little a case for the imagination.
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