Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go by Laura Rose Wagner (review by Andrew R. ’17)

Hold Tight, Don't Let Go: A Novel of HaitiHold Tight, Don’t Let Go: A Novel of Haiti by Laura Rose Wagner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go begins with a strangely subdued account of the catastrophic earthquake that killed more than 100,000 Haitians on January 12, 2010. Over the course of a few pages, the teenage narrator, Magdalie, witnesses the almost instantaneous leveling of the city of her childhood. But the reader can’t comprehend the magnitude of the tragedy until, months later, Magdalie forces herself to sit down and pour her memories onto the page, even as she admits that, “It doesn’t change anything if I write it down or not … It doesn’t change a thing.” Only here does the reader stop and say, Oh—she is upset, she is scarred, this is a tragedy. It hurts to read the passage: we feel Magdalie’s pain. The rest of the novel follows a similar trajectory. Intense emotion is the most important element of a story that deals with a disaster on this scale, and while that emotion is very often deferred by stumbling plot-lines and flat characters, it’s never forgotten. Sooner or later, the author’s point hits home, and we can’t help but feel empathy for Magdalie and the hundreds of thousands of real-life Haitians in her situation. In that respect, at least, Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go is a success.

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