Thursday, December 25, 2014

Hold Tight, Don't Let Go by Laura Rose Wagner

Magdalie was living with her aunt and sister-cousin Nadine in Port-au-Prince when the earthquake struck.  Magdalie's aunt is killed when the house she worked in collapsed.  Magdalie and Nadine are like sisters.  They forget that in actuality they are cousins and that Manman wasn't Magdalie's mother by blood.  This makes all the difference now, because this means that Nadine, who's father is in the United States, can get a visa to go live with him, and Magdalie can't.  Nadine promises to do everything she can to bring Magdalie to the U.S., but years pass, and Magdalie has difficulty letting go of her anger at being left behind.

Nadine leaves to live with her father early on in the book.  She swears she will bring Magdalie to America.  She'll convince her father, who she hardly knows, to get another visa.  At first, Magdalie and Nadine talk often.  Nadine says she's doing her best.  But as time goes on, Nadine calls and texts less and less often.  And when she does, she does not mention bringing Magdalie to live with them.

As long as Magdalie has the hope that Nadine will find a way to bring her to America, she has no reason to try and make things better for herself in Haiti.  What's the point of going back to school?  Or finding a better place to live?  Or making connections with anyone?  She'll be leaving soon.  She tries some desperate schemes to make money to buy a plane ticket, even though she doesn't have a visa and couldn't have gone anyway.  Magdalie falls into an angry depression.

Her life is grim.  She's living in a refugee camp with an uncle she was never close to, but they are each other's only family in the city.  There's little food, Magdalie doesn't have the money to return to school, and there's violence and despair everywhere.  Is there any reason to try and move forward?

Magdalie struggles with that question.  She isn't able to move forward for years after the earthquake and Nadine leaving.  Magdalie grows up a lot during those years, and finds her inner strength, and the strength to let go, move forward, and move on.

The book ends with a hopefully look at the future.  The author envisions Haiti in 2020, clean, safe, rebuilt and beautiful.  Magdalie and Nadine are reunited, and Magdalie is able to understand why Nadine drifted away after leaving.  It is a beautiful picture on Haiti, let's hope it comes to pass.

Hold Right, Don't Let Go comes out on January 6, 2015.

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