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WHAT STORM, WHAT THUNDER

A devastating, personal, and vital account.

Survivors and victims tell their powerful, moving stories in this fictional account of the 2010 Haitian earthquake.

On Jan. 12, 2010, a massive earthquake struck the island of Hispaniola, changing the face of Haiti forever. Between 250,000 and 300,000 people are estimated to have perished, many of them in the crowded capital of Port-au-Prince, while 1.5 million others were left homeless. In her searing new novel, Chancy, who spent years talking to survivors, sifts through the wreckage of this inconceivable calamity. She has shaped the stories of the living and the dead into a mighty fictional tapestry that reflects the terror, despair, and sorrow of the moment as she examines questions of Haitian identity in a world that doesn’t seem to care. Among her unforgettable characters are a desperate husband who abandons his grief-stricken wife in a sprawling, dangerous tent city; a sex worker who steps out of a hotel moments before it collapses; a drug trafficker trapped in an elevator who begins to reassess his life; a wealthy businessman who left Haiti and has returned to make a deal at the worst possible moment; a teenage girl terrorized by a former classmate in the refugee camp; a Haitian cab driver in Boston who has discovered religion and the perils of being Black in America; and an architect who returns home from Rwanda, where she'd been working for an NGO, only to find herself stymied by bureaucracy and unable to help anyone. The thread that connects these voices is Ma Lou, a market woman who has witnessed the tides of fortune in Port-au-Prince for decades and who holds no illusions about the future. The stories are not always easy to read, but they shouldn’t be. Chancy offers fleeting redemption for some characters, but she does not deal in false hopes. “We all look away unless it’s us, or someone we love, going up in flames,” one character muses. In this devastating work, Chancy refuses to let any of us look away.

A devastating, personal, and vital account.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-951142-76-6

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Tin House

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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LONG ISLAND

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

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An acclaimed novelist revisits the central characters of his best-known work.

At the end of Brooklyn (2009), Eilis Lacey departed Ireland for the second and final time—headed back to New York and the Italian American husband she had secretly married after first traveling there for work. In her hometown of Enniscorthy, she left behind Jim Farrell, a young man she’d fallen in love with during her visit, and the inevitable gossip about her conduct. Tóibín’s 11th novel introduces readers to Eilis 20 years later, in 1976, still married to Tony Fiorello and living in the titular suburbia with their two teenage children. But Eilis’ seemingly placid existence is disturbed when a stranger confronts her, accusing Tony of having an affair with his wife—now pregnant—and threatening to leave the baby on their doorstep. “She’d known men like this in Ireland,” Tóibín writes. “Should one of them discover that their wife had been unfaithful and was pregnant as a result, they would not have the baby in the house.” This shock sends Eilis back to Enniscorthy for a visit—or perhaps a longer stay. (Eilis’ motives are as inscrutable as ever, even to herself.) She finds the never-married Jim managing his late father’s pub; unbeknownst to Eilis (and the town), he’s become involved with her widowed friend Nancy, who struggles to maintain the family chip shop. Eilis herself appears different to her old friends: “Something had happened to her in America,” Nancy concludes. Although the novel begins with a soap-operatic confrontation—and ends with a dramatic denouement, as Eilis’ fate is determined in a plot twist worthy of Edith Wharton—the author is a master of quiet, restrained prose, calmly observing the mores and mindsets of provincial Ireland, not much changed from the 1950s.

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9781476785110

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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THE MAN WHO LIVED UNDERGROUND

A welcome literary resurrection that deserves a place alongside Wright’s best-known work.

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A falsely accused Black man goes into hiding in this masterful novella by Wright (1908-1960), finally published in full.

Written in 1941 and '42, between Wright’s classics Native Son and Black Boy, this short novel concerns Fred Daniels, a modest laborer who’s arrested by police officers and bullied into signing a false confession that he killed the residents of a house near where he was working. In a brief unsupervised moment, he escapes through a manhole and goes into hiding in a sewer. A series of allegorical, surrealistic set pieces ensues as Fred explores the nether reaches of a church, a real estate firm, and a jewelry store. Each stop is an opportunity for Wright to explore themes of hope, greed, and exploitation; the real estate firm, Wright notes, “collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent from poor colored folks.” But Fred’s deepening existential crisis and growing distance from society keep the scenes from feeling like potted commentaries. As he wallpapers his underground warren with cash, mocking and invalidating the currency, he registers a surrealistic but engrossing protest against divisive social norms. The novel, rejected by Wright’s publisher, has only appeared as a substantially truncated short story until now, without the opening setup and with a different ending. Wright's take on racial injustice seems to have unsettled his publisher: A note reveals that an editor found reading about Fred’s treatment by the police “unbearable.” That may explain why Wright, in an essay included here, says its focus on race is “rather muted,” emphasizing broader existential themes. Regardless, as an afterword by Wright’s grandson Malcolm attests, the story now serves as an allegory both of Wright (he moved to France, an “exile beyond the reach of Jim Crow and American bigotry”) and American life. Today, it resonates deeply as a story about race and the struggle to envision a different, better world.

A welcome literary resurrection that deserves a place alongside Wright’s best-known work.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-59853-676-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Library of America

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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