Shorty, a young teenage boy, is trapped under the rubble of a hospital during the aftermath of the 2010 Haitian earthquake. Desperate for water and unsure of his survival, Shorty keeps himself alert by narrating his harrowing childhood growing up in the violent Haitian slums. Born a twin, he and his sister Marguerite live in dire poverty and witness unspeakable crimes that affect not just their neighborhood, but their own family. Then a bullet lands him in the hospital, which is where he is when the earthquake hits.
Overlapping Shorty’s story is that of Toussaint L’Ouverture, the slave who, centuries ago, ignited a rebellion that freed the Haitians from the French. Their lives are linked by violence and bondage; even Shorty’s liberty is restricted by the UN guards who patrol the slums. As Toussaint hoped for a free Haiti, Shorty hopes that his life won’t end in darkness beneath the rubble.
In Darkness is a harrowing and compelling read because, as mentioned in the author’s note, much of it is true. While Shorty’s tale is fictional, the political violence and poverty surrounding his upbringing is based on fact, and Toussaint was a real man who witnessed unspeakable inhumanity and who rose up against it, only to die tragically. Readers will be affected by Nick Lake’s skillful juxtaposition of Haiti’s tragic history with its beautiful culture and strong people who continue to survive despite insurmountable odds. Let this incredible novel initiate a call for action.