The Great Divide

HarperAudio. Mar. 2024. 13:21 hrs. ISBN 9780063291355. $27.99. F
In her much-anticipated latest, Henríquez (The Book of Unknown Americans) illuminates the people whose labor, homes, and lives were consumed to bring the Panama Canal into being. Narrator Robin Miles gives voice to Henríquez’s panoply of characters, employing careful shifts in accent and tone to craft distinct, well-rounded characters. Listeners will encounter 16-year-old Ada Bunting, who has traveled from Barbados to earn money for her sister’s medical care; 17-year-old Omar Aquino, who comes face-to-face with the brutal work site conditions; remote John Oswald, a malaria researcher who is passionate about eradicating malaria but can’t connect to his wife; and the residents of the Panamanian town Gatún, who protest at having their land devoured by the canal’s implacable progress. Miles taps into the emotional center of Henríquez’s story, using small hesitations and carefully placed emphases to communicate the desperate desire of a father to reconcile with his son, the regret of a man who knows he has failed his wife, and the grinding worry shared by a mother and daughter for a desperately ill young woman.
VERDICT Henríquez’s many fans and readers of historical fiction will be enthralled by this affecting and thoughtfully narrated novel.
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