Through a series of personal journeys, each interwoven with scenes from Haiti’s extraordinary past, Amy Wilentz, a brilliant young writer/reporter, brings to life this turbulent and fascinating country. Opening with her arrival just days before the fall of Haiti’s President-for-Life, Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, Wilentz captures a country electric with the expectation of change: markets that bustle by day explode with gunfire at night; outlaws control country roads; farmers strugle to survive in a barren land; and belief in voodoo and the spirits of the ancestors remains as strong as ever.
The Rainy Season demystifies Haiti – a country and a people in cruel and capricious times. From the rebel priest Father Aristide and the street boys under his protection to the military strongmen who pass through the revolving door of power into the gleaming white presidential palace – and the buzzing international press corps members who jet in for a coup and leave the minute it’s over – Wilentz’s Haiti haunts the imagination.
An enterprising attempt to describe a complex country, “The Rainy Season” is also a remarkable account of a journalist’s transformation by her subject. Ms. Wilentz starts out as a somewhat naive reporter disembarking in a country undergoing seemingly epochal change: the toppling of the Duvalier dynasty. Armed with insatiable curiosity and considerable pluck, she proceeds to strip away the thick veil of overwrought exoticism that has long shrouded Haiti, recounting stories, based on her personal experiences, that leave the reader feeling like a privileged witness or traveler.
Filled with colorful vignettes on many subjects – the palpable sensation of unpredictability and terror in the streets of Port-au-Prince, where law is relegated to books and soldiers and freelance goons openly display their fondness for guns and their disregard for life; the beauty (when uncorrupted) of the much-maligned popular religion, voodoo; the strength and wisdom of simple peasants – the book offers a rich portrait of a country in fitful transition.
– The New York Times Book Review
“The Rainy Season is the kind of world-class reportage that deserves honor as history’s first draft.”