MLA Platinum Award Press Release

BookBrowse Reviews In Darkness by Nick Lake

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

In Darkness

by Nick Lake

In Darkness by Nick Lake X
In Darkness by Nick Lake
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2012, 352 pages
    Jan 2014, 368 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Tamara Ellis Smith
Buy This Book

About this Book



A story about the cruelties of man and nature and the struggle for Haiti's survival, ages 14+

Winter in Vermont is dark. My alarm wakes me up at 5:50 in the morning, and my 4-year-old daughter (who has often managed, at some point, to crawl into bed with me) opens her eyes and says, "But it's still night." And I can't help but agree with her. It is pitch black outside, it is tough to distinguish between reality and dream, and every cell in my body wants to fold back in on itself and sleep. The landscape of darkness is fatiguing. In its vast and seemingly endless sameness - no visible contours, no rises and falls, no shades of color - it is tough to find a sense of possibility. Of curiosity. Of hope.

But of course darkness - like all things - is relative. Vermont may seem dark to me, but I haven't been buried beneath the steel and plaster and wood of a hospital that has fallen in an earthquake.

Shorty has.

In Darkness, by Nick Lake, begins with Shorty, trapped beneath the rubble of the hospital where he was being treated for a gunshot wound. He has been caught in the 2010 earthquake that rocked Haiti.

The story begins - and continues - there. Shorty is in utter and complete darkness. It is from this place of not knowing whether he will live or die that he tells the story of his fifteen years living in the slums of Haiti: the choices he made for survival, his search for his twin sister, and his sense of the social and political landscape of this complicated country. Interwoven with Shorty's confessional is the third person account of Toussaint l'Ouverture, the revolutionary leader who led a slave rebellion and made Haiti a republic (see 'Beyond the Book').

Both threads of In Darkness - Shorty in 2010 Haiti and Toussaint in 18th century Haiti - are rich in detail and intensity. Nick Lake does a stunning job using sparse, stark prose to paint realistic and poetic pictures of both time periods. His respectful incorporation of the vodou culture woven together with blinding, brutal truths (machete fights, babies in garbage cans, bloodshed on the battlefield) creates a heart-wrenching glimpse of both the history and the present-day realities for the people of Haiti. It is not an easy read. Not by a long shot. But it is a gripping one. An honest one.

"Actually the whole writing period was a very strange experience," says Nick Lake on his website, "and one that I still don't quite understand. On several occasions I looked up from my laptop, having written thousands of words, with absolutely no recollection of what I had just written... In [vodou], worshippers can be 'mounted' by the spirits, the lwa, and possessed. That was what the experience of writing this book felt like: it felt like Shorty and Toussaint wrote it through me. Even now when I look through the text it doesn't feel like my book."

Nick Lake has done something extraordinary with In Darkness. By accomplishing the feat of connecting Shorty and Toussaint - both viscerally and magically - he has created a sense of hope. He has constructed, perhaps, the only paradigm that can truly allow hope to rise up out of utter despair: the act of remembering; the process of intertwining the past and the present; finding the threads that bind one to another, learning from mistakes, and holding tight to the truth. Nick Lake does this in a creative, complicated, devastating, and, ultimately, hopeful way.

In Darkness is a powerful, violent story. It is suitable for both teens and adults who can handle brutal, descriptive detail. It is absolutely worth reading and will leave the reader wanting to know more about Haiti's incredible history.

Additional Info
To learn more about the author and to interact with him online, visit Nick Lake's Facebook page.

Reviewed by Tamara Ellis Smith

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in February 2012, and has been updated for the February 2014 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for a year or $39 for 3 months
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Join Now!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: All Adults Here
    All Adults Here
    by Emma Straub
    In an author's note at the end of All Adults Here, Emma Straub comments on her decision a few years ...
  • Book Jacket: The Lightness of Hands
    The Lightness of Hands
    by Jeff Garvin
    The stillness that comes right after reading a book that has wrapped itself firmly around your heart...
  • Book Jacket: The Vanishing Half
    The Vanishing Half
    by Brit Bennett
    Brit Bennett's second novel, The Vanishing Half (after The Mothers, her 2016 bestselling debut), ...
  • Book Jacket
    Tropic of Violence
    by Nathacha Appanah
    Marie is a nurse working in Mayotte, a cluster of French territory islands in the Indian Ocean. When...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Prisoner's Wife
    by Maggie Brookes

    Inspired by the true story of a courageous young woman who enters a Nazi POW camp to be with the man she loves.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Last Flight
by Julie Clark

The story of two women and one agonizing decision that will change the trajectory of both of their lives.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win The House on Fripp Island

The House on Fripp Island
by Rebecca Kauffman

A taut, page-turning novel of secrets and strife.



Solve this clue:

M's T W!

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.