cover image What Storm, What Thunder

What Storm, What Thunder

Myriam J. A. Chancy. Tin House, $27.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-9511-4276-6

The 2010 earthquake in Haiti provides the backdrop for the extraordinary latest from Chancy (The Loneliness of Angels). “The earth had buckled and, in that movement, all that was not in its place fell upon the earth’s children, upon the blameless as well as the guilty, without discrimination,” remembers survivor Ma Lou, a market woman. Multilayered, lyrical, and told by 10 people affected by the disaster, all connected by blood or friendship, Chancy’s dazzling take considers a myriad of topics including sexual violence, racism, a dysfunctional government, and capitalism. There’s Ma Lou’s estranged, wealthy water executive son, Richard, who returns to Haiti on a business trip from Paris just before the earthquake, and drowns while having an anti-capitalist epiphany; Richard’s daughter, Anne, an architect working in Rwanda who returns to help after the quake; Taffia, 15, who lives for much of the year in a displaced persons camp, where she is raped and gets pregnant; and Didier, her brother, an undocumented cab driver in Boston who is often stiffed and sometimes beaten by his fares due to his skin color. Didier hears about the tragedy on NPR and wishes he could know if his family are safe while feeling guilty for pursuing his own life. There are many endings, with shifting fortunes and stories involving vodou, and it all coheres with a poignant mission involving Ma Lou and Anne four years after the earthquake. Each of the voices entrances, thanks to Chancy’s beautiful prose and rich themes. This is not to be missed. (Oct.)