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Book Review: Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go by Laura Rose Wagner

Laura Rose Wagner’s Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go begins on January 12, 2010 in Port-au-Prince, Haiti at the moment that the earthquake hits. Two pages later, Magdalie’s entire life has changed. Her home is now a pile of rubble—indeed, essentially all the homes and other buildings in and around Port-au-Prince are now rubble. Unfathomable numbers of people are dead, including Manman, her mother. Whatever plans she had for her immediate future are obliterated.


Now Magdalie and her sister (technically cousin—and Manman was her aunt, but they are really the only family Magdalie has ever known) Nadine are living with Tonton Elie, their uncle, in a crowded camp in a small house made of plywood, sheet metal, and tarps. People are doing what they can to survive in this new and bleak reality. Then, just when it seems that things could not get worse, Nadine finds out her father is able to bring her to Miami, where he lives. Magdalie can’t join her, as Nadine’s father is not her father. The girls are hopeful that Nadine will soon be able to secure a visa for Magdalie and they will be together again. But of course, things aren’t that simple. Now, with Nadine gone, Magdalie feels more alone and dejected than ever. She tries to come up with ways to earn some money to possibly get a plane ticket to Miami, but there is very little work to be had, and most of the ideas she comes up with prove to be unsafe. She longs to return to school, but can’t fathom coming up with the money it would take to attend school again. For Magdalie and so many others affected by the earthquake, the question becomes not just how do you pick up what’s left of your life and move forward, but how do you do that when there seems to be so little to move forward to?


The novel covers roughly a year and a half of Magdalie’s life. In this post-earthquake Haiti we see devastation and despair mixed with small moments of light—a new friend, a visit to far away family, a first kiss. Wagner’s writing is lyrical and she excels both at creating characters and describing the setting. A glossary of Haitian Creole, a brief history of Haiti, and suggestions for further reading are appended. This important and powerful book should be in all library collections. 


 See some fast facts on the 2010 Haiti earthquake here


ISBN-13: 9781419712043

Publisher: Amulet Books

Publication date: 1/6/2015

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