In hopes of piecing together the missing fragments of his mother’s past, a determined young Dominican scholar travels to Haiti to unearth the tribal secrets hidden in its network of underground caves.
Felipe Rosado, a student of the mythology and pre-Columbian history of the Caribbean people, enlists the expertise of his Haitian-born university professor, Pierre Dubois, to supervise his research. Together they return to the island of their birth, only for their lives to be shaken to the core. Upper-class Dubois reunites with a childhood friend, Noel Beauchamps, the son of a street vendor, who has become a well-respected medic in the community. During Dubois’ absence, Beauchamps has forged a strong bond with Mani Dieudonné, an elderly herbalist who resolutely guards the secrets of the Haitian underworld. After falling into a sinkhole while trying to escape a torrential rainstorm, Beauchamps stumbles upon a cathedrallike cavern once held sacred by the island’s indigenous people, the Taino. The academic Rosado is eager to reveal and document the cavern’s secrets, whereas Dieudonné is reluctant to share his cultural heritage with an outsider. Meanwhile, Rosado returns to his mother’s hometown of Duchity, only to find no trace of her existence, which sets in motion a series of surprising yet not entirely unpredictable narrative twists. The character differences are then thrust aside when the massive earthquake of January 12, 2010, devastates Haiti. What follows is a disorienting swirl of tragedy and renewal. In this, the Rouziers’ first novel, the sibling authors retell the history of their homeland and its people using a series of detailed multigenerational vignettes. A piece that meticulously evokes an academic field trip turned journey of personal self-discovery becomes a vehicle for the broader relation of Haitian oral history. The authors find beauty in a land wracked with conflict from its very founding. Their prose crackles with such heartfelt positivity, they can be forgiven for an occasional tendency toward repetition and prolixity.
A panoramic novel set so close to the land that it nearly leaves the red dust of Haiti on your fingertips.