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Devil Makes Three

A Novel

by Ben Fountain

Devil Makes Three by Ben Fountain X
Devil Makes Three by Ben Fountain
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  • Publishes
    Sep 26, 2023
    544 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

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There are currently 25 member reviews
for Devil Makes Three
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  • Karen G. (Norfolk, MA)
    I learned a lot
    This book is long but well worth it. I feel I learned something on almost every page. When names or events were mentioned I often looked them up. All were accurate and factual. The characters were very well developed and stayed true to their given characters. There was so much detail and so much to think about. I did not realize how little I knew about Haiti but felt better that the historical and political events were familiar. Devil Makes Three is definitely worth the investment of your time.
  • Lynne Z. (San Francisco, CA)
    Nothing Has Changed After 32 Years
    "U.S. Embassy Urges All Americans to leave Haiti" - September 2023
    Ben Fountain writes a compelling and comprehensive history of Haiti, that begins in September 1991 with a violent coup - a broken country filled with political instability, mismanagement, substandard infrastructure, corruption and violence. The novel feels like it's set in 2023.

    Fountain develops a host of intriguing characters, but the main protagonist is definitely Haiti. This is such a book of place. The author's knowledge of the country is remarkable. He is able to describe everything in infinite and exquisite detail - geography, political machinery and foreign intervention, scuba diving, colonialism and racial issues, illegal arms, vodou, Kreyol and much more. Early in the novel, he writes "From the mountains came the sound of Vodou arms, faint tremolos and mutterings of the drummers." Comparing the experience to the call to prayer in Turkey, he continues, "Here the drums affected him much the same way, as a framing device that served to take you out of yourself – to lift the spirit ... while strangely, paradoxically, concentrating one's sense of self." I began copying other memorable passages, but they came with practically every page, so I had to stop. Devil Makes Three is dense with description.

    The title was perfect. It seemed like all the characters were "dealing with the devil" at some point in the story. I liked that the main characters were complex, often contradictory and involved in difficult relationships and situations. Throughout the book I felt the constant tension of being in Haiti and was always anticipating that violence was near.

    I don't think I've ever read a book quite like this one. I found some of the political content confusing, especially Audrey's involvement as a CIA agent, but the book held my interest on many levels. There was a lot packed into 531 pages. While reading, I was transported to Haiti. I must admit, I am glad to be back home.
  • Linda O. (Jacksonville, NC)
    The Devil in Haitian Life
    If the devastation caused by hurricanes and earthquakes or the political upheavals that have resulted in so much poverty and violence have stirred any empathy for the Haitian people, Devil Makes Three might be the book for you. The story begins as the 1991 coup to overthrow Aristide takes place. Almost overnight the country changes; massacres, bodies in the streets, a mayor killed and beheaded, and the beginning of major drug and arms trafficking. Some of Ben Fountain's characters you like, some you don't, and some you don't trust, but all are memorable.

    American Matt Amaker and Haitian-Canadian Alix Variel are excited that their ScubaRave business is taking off, but coup leaders need their sturdy jetty for trafficking. The guys begin treasure hunting as a means to make money, but when word gets out that they might have found gold, they are arrested and jailed by Anti-gang leaders. They are moved to the Casernes jail near the palace. Eventually Alix's release is negotiated by the Canadian government, but Matt gets nothing from the American embassy and is forced to work for Colonel Concers, one of the coup leaders.

    Shelly Graver, aka Audrey O'Donnell, aka a clandestine CIA agent, arrives at USAID and soon begins recruiting assets. One of those assets is the doctor of the local hospital. Misha Variel, Alix's sister, goes to work at Hospital Georges Laroque where her primary job is to gather patient records. Soon she suspects that Doctor Laroque is turning those records over to Shelly Graver. When she confronts him, he says that money from USAID is the only way the hospital stays open. She realizes USAID is about more than humanitarian aid and suspects that the records are going to be used as a hit list, especially as they include the political leanings of the patients.

    The role Vodou plays in the story presents a very different picture than the one shown by American media. Here it is depicted as a vibrant part of the Haitian people's lives in a very believable way.

    The degree of corruption the book reveals about American government officials, American politicians, and American businessmen is staggering. They are as much the villains in Devil Makes Three as the coup leaders. This is not a book for the fainthearted, but I found the character of the Haitian people compelling and the revelation of American involvement enlightening.
  • M K. (Minneapolis, MN)
    Devil Makes Three
    Devil Makes Three is a riveting detective novel, a thriller with political intrigue, many interwoven love stories and rise and collapse of Haiti after the coup replacing Aristide, the first democratically leader of their country. It's a long involved saga with many layers of chaos, deception, and truth. The novel is a roller coaster ride worth holding on tight. I enjoyed this gorgeous novel about what happens when a democratic country falls apart.
  • Cathy Thibeault
    Haiti in turmoil
    I have known Haiti to be a poor country, but it was always an abstract knowledge. Ben Fountain brought the plight of Haiti to the forefront. His description of the ordinary life of ordinary people living in Haiti was heartbreaking. His descriptive writing and vast knowledge of their history, poverty, and fear were intense. The problems they faced while just trying to survive made me cringe.

    Mr. Fountain presented their fear as a palpable, living thing. I was blown away by his prose and presentation. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone interested in history in the making as we follow the lives of the Haitian people and their leaders. An intense read.
  • Judith G. (Greenbrae, CA)
    Ben Fountain's Devil Makes Three is a large book in every sense: large-hearted, large in sweep, large in memorable characters and stories, large in meaning (and physically large at 531 pp.). It's the story of an American and his Haitian partner whose diving business is appropriated by the state, and who turn to diving for buried treasure ships with horrifying results. It's the story of the Haitian's sister, a Ph.D. Philosophy candidate at Brown who instead winds up working in a desperately underfunded Haitian hospital. It's the story of an U.S. aid worker whose actual work in no way resembles her title. It's the story of voodoo. It's the story of a U.S. sponsored coup in the 90's, which removed Aristide, the democratically-elected president.

    It's about the poverty in Haiti, the chaos, the drug-running, the corruption, the beauty, the resilience of its people. In truth, the main character is Haiti itself, and Ben Fountain embraces all of it—takes the reader right into its heart, lets us feel its pulse. There is so much going on here, the scope is so wide that although every part of it is compelling, it sometimes becomes too much of a good thing and makes the going difficult. But overall, Devil Makes Three is a beautifully written, unique and powerful novel that changed how I look at Haiti, at history, and at my government.
  • Beth B. (New Wilmington, PA)
    Searching for the Devil
    Fasten your seat belts as our skillful pilot, Ben Fountain, transports readers to Haiti. You'll meet memorable characters and be exposed to conspiracies in a search of truth and justice in an unsettled period of history. Who is being duped? Is this real or does it just appear to be?

    Complexities, compromise, and complications are at the center of a search for truth and justice. Matt and Alix are confronted with events that highlight the eternal struggle between short-term pain or long-term gain. Lots of fodder for individual readers or a book club selection.


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