Here comes a big one. The book that I've been talking and talking about finally lands on our blog today. H is for Ashley Hope Perez and her historical tragedy, Out of Darkness.
|H is for Ashley Hope Perez|
Cover missing Printz Honor seal.
Say what you want about prologues, Kim, but reading the prologue to Hope Perez's award-winning historical fiction is a litmus test to see if you can emotionally handle this haunting novel. If you can pull through the prologue without your heart crumbling to nothing, you might be strong enough to continue reading.
"Within the great circle," she writes, "men crawl over the crumpled form of the collapsed school. They cart away rubble and search for survivors. For their children. Mostly, though, they find bodies." The prologue continues, describing the hours and days just after the explosion. The prologue ends with, "More than grief, more than anger, there is a need. Someone to blame. Someone to make pay."
We then enter the story in September 1937, several months before the explosion. In meeting the five narrators: Beto, Naomi, Wash, Henry, and The Gang; I found myself searching for the "Someone to make pay" and hoping that my favorite characters would not be blamed. No spoilers here, but Hope Perez holds no punches when it comes to the emotional toll she hammers against her characters (or her readers).
Short chapters push the story ahead while we watch the characters' relationships unfold and intertwine. Naomi, one of our narrators, cares for her half-brother and sister, twins, Cara and Beto. Brought from their grandparents' home in San Antonio, the twins and Naomi move in with Henry.
Henry is a nightmare in the flesh. His volatile moods paired with his thirst for companionship bring out the worst in this monster, especially to Naomi. It's Wash who finally brings light to the lives of Naomi and the twins. The love between Wash and Naomi lets us exhale in a story that constantly constricts our breath. The brutalities and racial horrors that both Naomi and Wash face daily in the small New London town paint a grave town and a grave time.
I can only describe the ending of Out of Darkness as heartbreaking. The language is beautiful. The characters are so real. The tragedy, both the researched facts and developed fiction, haunting. This is a book that will stay with you always.
#AuthorApril would be incomplete without Ashley Hope Perez and her historical fiction masterpiece, Out of Darkness.