cover image The Mediterranean Wall

The Mediterranean Wall

Louis Philippe Dalembert, trans. from the French by Marjolijn de Jager. Schaffner, $17.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-943156-97-9

This richly textured and sweeping novel from Haitian poet Dalembert (The Other Side of the Sea) follows three migrant women on their perilous journey across the Mediterranean to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa. As mad cow disease spreads through 19-year-old Jewish Nigerian Shoshana’s village, her neighbors leave for Lagos—“endless promises at first, endless nothing in the end”—while her family’s application for Israeli citizenship goes unanswered. Eighteen-year-old Semhar decides to leave Eritrea to avoid mandatory military service. Shoshana and Semhar’s paths intersect on their travels to a Libyan port, where, after boarding a trawler, they meet Dima, an upper-class woman from Syria with whom they instantly (if unconvincingly) clash. Onboard, the women face even more perils: an uprising, harsh conditions, and hunger. The trip across the Mediterranean, already so fraught, might kill them. While the interpersonal conflict can feel a bit contrived, Dalembert powerfully conveys the impact on the three women of the shared realization that their homes can no longer provide a future for them. All in, this story of a wretched journey is deeply affecting. (June)