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Book Review: The Great Divide by Cristina Henríquez

The Great Divide by Cristina Henríquez unfolds against one of the most significant engineering triumphs of the twentieth century—the construction of the Panama Canal. Henríquez skillfully utilizes this monumental undertaking as a canvas to explore the complexities of colonization. Within this narrative tapestry, some characters assume the roles of colonizers, while others bear the weight of being colonized. What makes Henríquez's storytelling exceptional is her ability to infuse each character with emotional depth, thus humanizing the intricate dynamics of nationhood and colonization.



The narratives seamlessly weave together, creating a rich and nuanced portrayal of the individuals involved in this transformative historical moment. Henríquez's characters are incredibly well-crafted, displaying a depth that adds layers to the exploration of the consequences of colonization. As the stories unfold, readers gain a profound appreciation for those who viewed the canal as a symbol of hope and progress and perceived it as a lasting legacy of colonization.


While the novel excels in capturing the myriad perspectives surrounding the Panama Canal, a notable criticism arises in the book's last quarter, where the pacing feels rushed. The stories of the characters from Panama, which held such nuanced depth throughout most of the narrative, risk becoming one-dimensional due to the hurried conclusion. The abrupt ending, while frustrating, is partially mitigated by an insightful epilogue that answers some lingering questions. However, the rushed conclusion remains a detracting element in an otherwise masterfully crafted novel.


Henríquez's prose, characterized by its lyrical beauty and vividly drawn characters, ensures that The Great Divide will captivate readers who appreciate a compelling story and those with a penchant for historical fiction. Despite the rushed conclusion, the novel remains a testament to Henríquez's ability to navigate complex themes and deliver a poignant exploration of the enduring legacies of colonization.


Thank you to Ecco and Netgalley for the advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.


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