Ruth's Reviews > Because We Are

Because We Are by Ted Oswald
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really liked it

Grim and gripping and sad, Because We Are is a work of social consciousness that cuts deep. At first, the parallels to Flavia de Luce seemed to leap to the fore: a plucky young heroine attempts to solve murders and puts herself into ridiculously dangerous situations while doing so, all in defiance of police orders to keep out of things. There's even an Inspector Hewlett arch-typical figure, although this Dimanche is cut from sterner stuff, as one would expect of a Haitian police officer attempting to preside over the snarling mess that is Cité Soleil. But the longer I read, the more those parallels seemed to recede. While the Flavia de Luce novels entertain, this novel attempts to educate. While this is not necessarily heavy-handed or distracting from the story, it is certainly overt.

According the the blurb, Oswald worked on this novel while living in Haiti, and it shows. In every line is etched the stark reality of life in such a place. The characters are true to the culture, their voices and reactions pitch-perfect. Although the children are very occasionally too wise for their years, readers will find themselves so gripped with the story that they are willing to forgive this minor issue.

When it comes to the way in which the story's timeline was unveiled, I'm a bit less forgiving. Although I think I understand why Oswald chose to tell the story in such a fragmented way, I will confess that I found the constant effort to keep track of the timeline to be hard going.

Recommended especially for those who have spent any amount of time in Haiti. Although the country's woes are rife with human drama, there really aren't many English novels set there. (Though not recommended for bleeding hearts, sensitive souls, or anyone who finds language, violence, and frank descriptions of the seamy underbelly of an inner-city slum to be off-putting.)
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Reading Progress

February 25, 2013 – Started Reading
February 25, 2013 – Shelved
February 25, 2013 –
3.0% "...because there's no way this is going to be depressing! Right, guys??"
February 27, 2013 –
March 2, 2013 –
March 2, 2013 –
March 3, 2013 –
73.0% "Oh, my word."
March 3, 2013 –
78.0% "I'm honestly afraid to read the end. Please, some sort of happy resolution at the end! Please, please, please!"
March 3, 2013 – Finished Reading

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