Thursday, December 15, 2011

Haiti After the Earthquake

by Dr. Paul Farmer
narrated by Eric Conger and others
[United States] : Highbridge Company, 2011.

*NOTE: This review refers to the book I received through LibraryThing Early Reviewers. As per the rules, I receive a free book in return for a review, and whether it's positive or negative has no affect on my receiving books in the future.*

I've been eying this book on the library new bookshelf for awhile. Paul Farmer, as well as his work for Partners in Health, was the subject of Tracy Kidder's book Mountains Beyond Mountains, and the earthquake had a personal connection in its effect on my aunt's process of adopting a Haitian orphan. But the book was too long to read in two weeks, so when it was offered through the Early Reviewers program I was really excited to receive this audio copy.

In this book, Paul Farmer - now UN Deputy Special Envoy to Haiti under former president Bill Clinton - details his experiences in the first year after the earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince on January 12, 2010. The majority of the book, 8 CDs in the audio version, is his point of view, but includes copious quotes from colleagues and friends affected as well. Dr. Farmer's involvement was more on a political level than anything else, so while he does include some stories of individuals affected by the quake, he focuses much of his narrative on "building back better," and the political policies that he believes will affect change in Haiti. I did not find this as personally interesting, nor did I agree entirely with his underlying assumption that the public sector is the best way to provide certain services.

Dr. Farmer's text is read not by Meryl Streep as the packaging would suggest, but Eric Conger, who does a good job of keeping the narration flowing and making it clear when he is quoting someone else. Since this was a full-cast audio, I half expected quotes from other people to be delivered by other voices, but this is not the case. Instead, each essay at the end - written by various people including Edwidge Danticat, Nancy Dorsinville, Timothy T. Schwartz, and Dr. Farmer's wife Didi - are read by the cast. I particularly liked the narration by the Haitian authors themselves: Edwidge Danticat reading her essay made me want to read her fiction. Because these three narrators' renditions were slower, I found it hard to follow entirely on audio and supplemented by reading the book at the same time. But I loved the individuality and nuance it brought to their essays, and loved being able to hear the Haitian Creole phrases and sentences the way they should sound (for the record, it sounds similar to French, but I wouldn't have guessed that from the spelling). While in some ways this book wasn't what I expected, I am glad I read it, and I will pass it on to my aunt who, I think, will appreciate it even more than I did.

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