Book review: Julia Alvarez’s “A Wedding in Haiti”

After the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti took more than 300,000 lives, many people felt compelled to help that country. Julia Alvarez wanted to go there.

She describes her experiences in her book, A Wedding in Haiti (Algonquin Books).

Her journey first began in 2009, when Alvarez and her husband, Bill, attended the wedding of Piti, a Haitian boy they had seen flying a kite near their coffee farm in her native Dominican Republic and they later hired to work on the farm.

But even before the earthquake, going to Haiti proves to be an ardurous journey, as Haiti’s infrastructure seems to be stuck in 1909.

A year later, Alvarez feels compelled to visit the country again after the earthquake.

“I didn’t have any answers for Haiti or fix-it advice or even a high road to take a moral stance for others to emulate. I just wanted to be with Haiti, and the line that kept echoing in my heart was the one from stations of the cross on Good Friday: Walk with me as I walk with you and never leave my side.

She makes the journey again  – compounded by bureaucracy and the devastation from the earthquake.

Alvarez doesn’t waste any words or get too fancy, making her writing so enjoyable to read. She is great at describing things – from a child’s schoolbook to a time when they had to drive through a river with the help of some Haitians, who then demand money. But the trips are worth the trouble as Alvarez describes the joy of the celebration – such as a scene in which the party-goers start to dance spontaneously.

Despite the devastation, she leaves the country with hope.

“So what is it that the eye is seeking and the heart is aching for? A flicker of wings, a thing that whispers hope. From a sidewalk wall hangs a red evening gown for sale. Incredible to think: there will be partying again! A boy in his school uniform walks by, holding the straps of his backpack. The very ordinariness of the moment seems a blessing.”

A Wedding in Haiti is a great book that gives readers a personal look at its people.

More about Julia Alvarez:

Julia Alvarez grew up in the Dominican Republic and came to the United States at age 10. She’s written numerous poems and books, including How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of Butterflies.

Source: I received a review copy from the publisher.

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Filed under 2012 Books, Book Reviews, Non-Fiction

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