Cristina Henríquez at Harvard Book Store
The Great Divide: A Novel
in conversation with JENNIFER HAIGH
March 6, 2024
7:00 PM ET
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes CRISTINA HENRÍQUEZ—author of The Book of Unknown Americans—for a discussion of her new novel The Great Divide. She will be joined in conversation by JENNIFER HAIGH—author of Mercy Street.
About The Great Divide
It is said that the canal will be the greatest feat of engineering in history. But first, it must be built. For Francisco, a local fisherman who resents the foreign powers clamoring for a slice of his country, nothing is more upsetting than the decision of his son, Omar, to work as a digger in the excavation zone. But for Omar, whose upbringing was quiet and lonely, this job offers a chance to finally find connection.
Ada Bunting is a bold sixteen-year-old from Barbados who arrives in Panama as a stowaway alongside thousands of other West Indians seeking work. Alone and with no resources, she is determined to find a job that will earn enough money for her ailing sister’s surgery. When she sees a young man—Omar—who has collapsed after a grueling shift, she is the only one who rushes to his aid.
John Oswald has dedicated his life to scientific research and has journeyed to Panama in single-minded pursuit of one goal: eliminating malaria. But now, his wife, Marian, has fallen ill herself, and when he witnesses Ada’s bravery and compassion, he hires her on the spot as a caregiver. This fateful decision sets in motion a sweeping tale of ambition, loyalty, and sacrifice.
Searing and empathetic,The Great Divide explores the intersecting lives of activists, fishmongers, laborers, journalists, neighbors, doctors, and soothsayers—those rarely acknowledged by history even as they carved out its course.
Praise for The Great Divide
“Cristina Henríquez gives us cause to celebrate with this sweeping novel. It speeds us into a wild world of adventure and danger, epic visions of the creation of the Panama Canal. There isn’t another book like it. A welcome return by one of our finest voices.” —Luis Alberto Urrea, author of Good Night, Irene
"Against the backdrop of the construction of the Panama Canal, Cristina Henríquez’s commanding and fearless prose conducts us through the very depth of the Panamanian jungle, where young Ada and Omar fight bravely— for themselves, their families and their communities survival— in a rapidly changing world. Violent empire and volatile sickness combine for harrowing effect in this vivid novel that interrogates all that is sacrificed in the name of progress. By turns macabre and also truly joyful, The Great Divide left me with a powerful ache for forgotten histories that will not soon leave me." —Xochitl Gonzalez, author of Olga Dies Dreaming
"A gorgeous, sweeping epic that draws together a truly unforgettable cast of characters. I loved it." —Ann Napolitano, author of Hello Beautiful
Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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