by Frances Temple. Orchard Books, NY, 1995
ISBN # 0-531-06899-4. $15.95
Reviewed by Bob Corbett
Frances Temple follows in the footsteps of her first Haiti novel, TASTE OF SALT. Again she has written a book for the young teens, sensitive, true to Haiti, yet in a language and story line which will grip all readers, but is specially aimed at younger readers.
TONIGHT, BY SEA is set in a tiny village on the sea coast in Haiti. The local FRAPH group is terrorizing Lavalas supporters, hunger is widespread, and Pauli's uncle, a coffin maker, has decided to built a small boat and leave for the U.S.
The tiny village rallies round, one man even tearing down his house to contribute some wood, others gather materials for the sail and so on. A young man of the village, attracted to FRAPH for the power and prestige, nonetheless rallies to the village effort and steal tar from a FRAPH leader himself.
Eventually the tiny boat with 9 people sets sail with only the vaguest idea of where they are headed and how to proceed.
The story is straight forward and gripping. The characters are not of great complexity, but there is a powerful sense of pathos that pervades the whole novel keeping this reader on the verge of tears at all times.
I think of similar type novels in the literature that I grew up with -- The Hardy Boys mysteries and the like. Not unlike Temple they told simple and intriguing stories. Like Temple the characters were not of extraordinary depth or complexity. But, in this genre in the U.S.
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