God Loves Haiti by Dimitry Elias Léger

 

A native of Haiti, Dimitry Elias Léger makes his debut with his novel God Loves Haiti. Set in Port-au-Prince before, during, and after the 2010 earthquake, this story revolves around three lovers — Haiti’s President, First Lady, and her lover (all fictional) — as they come to terms with the devastation around them and readjust to their lives.

Two phrases that usually send me running away appear in blurbs on the back cover of my review copy: “romantic comedy” and “love triangle.” I’m not sure I agree with the “comedy” part (although Natasha’s lover often provided a lighter reprieve), but the romance and love triangle do not overwhelm the story in any way. I enjoyed every page of the book, from beginning to end, in large part because there are so many layers to this novel.

The writing is superb; refined but modern. Allusions to Dante’s Divine Comedy are cleverly interwoven throughout the book. With an ever-so-subtle hand, Léger gives readers a glimpse into Haiti’s complicated history and politics, its culture and faith, its spirit and pride. The nation’s rich beauty radiates throughout the story, so much so that you forget about how extreme the poverty there is. That is, until Léger sneaks in a clue that shocks you back to reality. It’s confusing. It’s disconcerting. It makes for a stunning reading experience that leaves you feeling devastated, hopeful, and conflicted in that gut-wrenching, introspective “I need to think about this more deeply” kind of way. What a striking debut.