Reviewed by Krista Castner

I’ve been meaning to learn more about Haiti, especially after the devastating earthquake that struck that country on January 12, 2010. When I saw Julia Alvarez’s new book A Wedding in Haiti I thought that it would be a good way to get more insights into the two countries. The book recounts Alvarez’s recent personal experiences in the Dominican Republic and in Haiti before and after the 2010 earthquake.

A Wedding in Haiti was really informative. The many little black and white photos sprinkled throughout the book really helped personalize the people and places that were being discussed on the pages. Through the book I learned more about the desperate poverty in Haiti, some Haitian history, and about the strength of the human spirit to transcend what sometimes seem to be insurmountable obstacles.

As the story opens Alvarez relates how she and her husband Bill befriended a seventeen year-old migrant worker named Piti. Piti had crossed into the Dominican Republic illegally to work on a coffee farm. As their unlikely friendship grew into an almost foster parent role on the part of Alvarez, she promised Piti that one day she would come to Haiti to attend his wedding. That day came sooner than expected in 2009. True to their word Alvarez and her husband Bill returned from Vermont to the Dominican Republic, and along with a rag-tag group of fellow travelers who joined the trip, drove over the border into Haiti in Bill’s new pick-up truck.

The first half of the book is about the journey they took to reach Piti’s small family enclave in a remote part of Haiti in time to attend the wedding; and the return trip from that wedding. The second half of the book describes returning to that same enclave a year later. This second trip took place months after the January 12, 2010 earthquake. This time on the way back the traveling party detoured through Port-au-Prince before returning to the Dominican Republic.

Alvarez also shares what it feels like to visit her parents in the Dominican Republic and witness their further decline into Alzheimer’s dementia. Alvarez writes with honesty and insight even when it comes to disagreements that she has with her husband and how frustrated he sometimes makes her feel. I recommend this book if you want to learn more about Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Alvarez writes with a clear eye and compassion in her heart.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Krista lives just outside the urban sprawl of Portland, Oregon. Lamentably, her work as a technical writer and business analyst often interferes with her reading which is a true passion.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Algonquin Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.