I am a rag doll throttled in a dog’s mouth. The earth lurches back and forth and back again, and then it shudders in violent waves. I can’t keep my balance, and I fall to my knees. I see the house fall. I know I should be afraid, but I feel nothing but numbness.
Published by Amulet Books in January 2015
Pages - 250
Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go follows the vivid story of two teenage cousins, raised as sisters, who survive the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti. After losing the woman who raised them in the tragedy, Magdalie and Nadine must fend for themselves in the aftermath of the quake. The girls are inseparable, making the best of their new circumstances in a refugee camp with an affectionate, lively camaraderie, until Nadine, whose father lives in Miami, sends for her but not Magdalie. As she leaves, Nadine makes a promise she cannot keep: to bring Magdalie to Miami, too. Resourceful Magdalie focuses her efforts on a reunion with Nadine until she realizes her life is in Haiti, and that she must embrace its possibilities for love, friendship, and a future.
This book is a fictional representation of a real life catastrophe. This book’s publication coincides with the fifth anniversary of the Haiti earthquake which devastated the country, killing so many people and left a society in such unbelievable sorrow.
It isn’t an easy read, as you journey through the actual event and the days that followed it. This is a deeply personalised account, so you really are hit deeply by Magdalie’s thoughts and feelings as she tries to come to terms with the loss of her aunt who has always been like a mother to her. Not to mention the drastic change in living conditions. When you see events like this on television, you are shocked by the devastation, but you are at a distance from it. However I found reading about it and hearing what day to day life was like really hit home and upset me a lot.
Not only is this a story about the aftermath of the disaster, but it is also a coming of age story. Magdalie and Nadine have always felt like sisters and begin their journey through the events together. However when Nadine’s estranged father sends her a plane ticket to take her to live in America, Magdalie is devastated. She is left to cope alone and the loneliness really is awful for her. You can see a heavy blanket of depression dropping down on her, almost suffocating the life out of her. Thankfully a trip to where her aunt came from, gives her the space and the perspective to change her future.
I think this is a beautifully written book. I really felt the author captured the devastation but dealt with it sympathetically. This book shows how resilient the human race really is. When we fall down, we jump back up stronger. The last chapter really brought a tear to my eye. Set in 2020 and written by the main character, it is really is a hope for the future. I could imagine many of the inhabitants of Haiti hoping and praying for this type of future.