In Darkness by Nick Lake
“In darkness I count my blessings like Manman taught me. One: I am alive. Two: there is no two. I see nothing. I hear nothing. This darkness, it’s like something solid. It’s like something inside me.”
So begins the readers’s journey with Shorty, a Haitian teen stuck underground in a crumbling hospital after a terrible earthquake. He is surrounded by death, and slowly dying of thirst and starvation, but shares the story of his difficult life and how he ended up in his current predicament. Shorty’s hard-scrabble slum life led him into a world of gangsters, ruled by the impulsive Soleil, just so he and his family can survive. Like he’s whispering in our ear, Shorty tells us about life in his world, where the gang lords imitate the American gangbangers, and children execute enemies with barely a second thought. While he waits in hope of rescue, he feels the ghost-like presence of a man coming into his mind, that of Toussaint L’Overture, slave who led the rebellion to free the Haitain slaves in the late 1700’s. Though seeming different, the two men actually have ideas in common that will intrigue readers as they make their way through this captivating story.
Although I found this book to be utterly sad, I was compelled by the author’s style to read it to the end. I had to find out what happened to Shorty, even though his life felt hopeless. In the afterward, Nick Lake said he did research Haitian history, but took liberties with the facts, smoothing out the history to fit his story. I think this book will make readers want to learn more about l’Overature, as his character as a simple man who led a revolution against Napoleonic France is fascinating. I recommend this to readers who like urban drama or historical fiction.