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What Storm, What Thunder

Review

What Storm, What Thunder

In 2010, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 hit Port-au-Prince in Haiti. Between that and multiple aftershocks, a resulting localized tsunami, and a lack of resources to address the aftermath, three million people were affected while an estimated 250,000 lost their lives.

Told from the perspectives of fictional characters living through an actual disaster, WHAT STORM, WHAT THUNDER by Myriam J A Chancy places readers at the literal and metaphorical heart of the earthquake. Narrated by a diverse cast of characters, we experience it through their intersecting, overlapping stories. Shifting between first- and third-person narration and across timelines, we are introduced to a dog-loving taxi driver, an old vendor and her ex-pat son, a bereaved mother, a drug pusher and many others. All are attempting to rebuild what is left of their lives.

"WHAT STORM, WHAT THUNDER is a moving, brilliant and brutal read. It is hard to conjure words to capture the experience of this book accurately."

Chancy’s ability to write from such different perspectives puts this book in a class of its own. As readers, we empathize with people across social backgrounds, ages and perspectives. Facing the same disaster, we are compelled to register their differences but also to recognize something much larger: our shared human experience. The story draws on the power of that connection, over time and across seas, allowing these characters to foster community, draw strength and begin to rebuild.

Perhaps even more beautiful is the connection between author and story. Outside of the earthquake itself, Chancy is able to provide a wonderful window into Haitian culture and beliefs. In the characters’ backgrounds is where one glimpses that this is more than just a book to Chancy. The intimacy with which she weaves Haitian life into the novel reflects a deep and enduring bond with her homeland. It betrays her love for her country and her faith in its people.

Though many of the scenes are powerful enough to shake readers from the inside out, experience trumps exaggeration in Chancy’s writing. She does not rely on “trauma porn” to propel her narrative forward. Rather, she writes with the type of compassion and care that compels us to want to know her characters, to root for them as the earth shatters beneath them, and to fully comprehend the catastrophe unfolding around them without explicit gore or inflated emotional torment.

WHAT STORM, WHAT THUNDER is a moving, brilliant and brutal read. It is hard to conjure words to capture the experience of this book accurately. Both heartbreaking and hopeful, it has the power to break its readers only to reforge their faith in community and connection stronger than ever before.

Reviewed by Kayla Provencher on October 15, 2021

What Storm, What Thunder
by Myriam J. A. Chancy

  • Publication Date: October 5, 2021
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Tin House Books
  • ISBN-10: 1951142764
  • ISBN-13: 9781951142766