Rebecca's Reviews > In Darkness

In Darkness by Nick Lake
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Jul 02, 12

bookshelves: historical-fiction, baya-review-books
Read from June 09 to 26, 2012

Shorty gains consciousness in the dark, trapped by the fallen walls of the hospital ward in which he was recovering from a gunshot wound. He wonders if he’s dead, a ghost cursed to live in shadows forever, but his needs of thirst and hunger convince him otherwise. Struggling to survive, Shorty laps blood pooled on the floor, wondering if it’s his own or another’s. But he senses no other life besides the scuttling of rats. His world before this wreckage was equally brutal – gangs, guns, deprivation – so he is accustomed to pain and horror, but this absolute lack of light may drive him to madness. The day-to-day violence doesn’t bother him much and since he’s one of the perpetrators, he’s hardened himself to a life of guns, neglect, abandonment, and need. Mixing mud with fat to make pies and leaving sick babies in the trash is commonplace here in his gang-infested ghetto. Haiti is described as cracked and cursed, suspended on a fault line.

The reader learns Shorty’s sad and turbulent past; his father killed by gang members the abduction of his twin sister. They lived on the line between two gangs and each believed the family loyal to the rival. Militia violence, supported by the government who supplies only guns, is both tearing their lives apart yet keeping them alive, as gang leaders, some working with the UN, are the only ones delivery much-needed provisions. References to rap music and the desired extravagance of wealth bring the narrative to life.

Shorty says he was born in blood and darkness and is destined to die the same, and his circumstances, trapped under filth and rubble, suggest the prophecy is true. Yet an old adage reminds the reader that the darkness is never complete, there are stars, and so there is always hope. The story begins to segue into Haiti’s violent past, and the reader is introduced to Toussaint, the former slave who rebelled to free Haiti’s blacks, but was eventually crushed by Napoleon. Then and now, history and current events weave together, and Shorty and Toussaint both gain a mysterious knowledge of the other in their dreams and visions. Parallel lives emerge, as the reader learns of Toussaint’s twin sister, who was also lost, and how he considered himself a soul split in parts, only half a person. In Haitian culture, twins are magical. Shorty’s sister, Marguerite, completed him and after his death, he remained half a soul, wearing a necklace of a broken heart, forever searching to be made whole again.

The reader sees Haiti as a place of relentless violence, oppression and destruction, yet lined with a gleam of hope inspired by the seeking of justice and honoring the past. Justice overrides revenge, which is said to help no one, least of all the dead. This is a mournful story about the brutality of slavery,war, and poverty; brilliantly told, with memorable characters who will linger in the reader’s mind; a grave yet inspirational work of historical fiction.
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