Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Fiction Disaster

What Storm, What Thunder

A Novel

by (author) Myriam J.A. Chancy

HarperCollins Canada
Initial publish date
Sep 2021
Disaster, General, Literary
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Sep 2021
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2021
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


-Finalist Aspen Words Literary Prize

-Longlisted for the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature

At the end of a long, sweltering day, as markets and businesses begin to close for the evening, an earthquake of 7.0 magnitude shakes the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince. 

Award-winning author Myriam J. A. Chancy masterfully charts the inner lives of the characters affected by the disaster——Richard, an expat and wealthy water-bottling executive with a secret daughter; the daughter, Anne, an architect who drafts affordable housing structures for a global NGO; a small-time drug trafficker, Leopold, who pines for a beautiful call girl; Sonia and her business partner, Dieudonné, who are followed by a man they believe is the vodou spirit of death; Didier, an emigrant musician who drives a taxi in Boston; Sara, a mother haunted by the ghosts of her children in an IDP camp; her husband, Olivier, an accountant forced to abandon the wife he loves; their son, Jonas, who haunts them both; and Ma Lou, the old woman selling produce in the market who remembers them all. Artfully weaving together these lives, this gripping story gives witness to the desolation wreaked by nature and by man. 

Brilliantly crafted, fiercely imagined, and deeply haunting, What Storm, What Thunder is a singular, stunning record, a reckoning of the heartbreaking trauma of disaster, and——at the same time——an unforgettable testimony to the tenacity of the human spirit.

About the author

Myriam J.A. Chancy is the author of both non-fiction and fiction, including Framing Silence: Revolutionary Novels by Haitian Women (1997), Searching for Safe Spaces: Afro-Caribbean Women Writers in Exile (1997), which won a Choice OAB Award for 1998, and Spirit of Haiti (2003), shortlisted for Best First Book, Canada/Caribbean region, Commonwealth Prize 2004. The Loneliness of Angels (2010) was shortlisted in the fiction category of the OCM Bocas Prize in Caribbean Literature 2011 and won the 2011 Guyana Prize in Literature Caribbean Award, Best Fiction 2010. Chancy sits on the editorial advisory board of PMLA and is professor of English at the University of Cincinnati.

Myriam J.A. Chancy's profile page

Editorial Reviews

A Best Book of Fall. "This gorgeous novel follows a diverse array of characters in the time immediately before and after the quake, and what happens when a natural disaster shakes your entire world."

Good Housekeeping

Featured Essay

What Storm, What Thunder refracts the tragic events of the 2010 Haitian earthquake through multiple perspectives and voices. The result is an affecting and immersive—an important—book.” 

<strong>–Dan Vyleta, Scotiabank Giller Prize-shortlisted author of <em>The Crooked Maid</em>, <em>Smoke</em> and <em>Soot</em></strong>


"Survivors and victims tell their powerful, moving stories in this fictional account of the 2010 Haitian earthquake....Their stories are not always easy to read, but they shouldn’t be. Chancy offers fleeting redemption for some characters, but she does not deal in false hopes. “We all look away unless it’s us, or someone we love, going up in flames,” one character muses. In this devastating work, Chancy refuses to let any of us look away. A devastating, personal, and vital account."

<strong><em>Kirkus Reviews </em>(starred review)</strong>

“Chancy reminds us that the headlines and statistics were but part of the story of death and destruction....In her intricate tale of how the tragedy is multiplied by systemic social failures that follow the earthquake, Chancy examines the difficult question of how people move past grief of this magnitude, personally and collectively. Every element of the writing and characterization delivers a poignant experience.”


A Most Anticipated Book of Fall. "This is fiction as an act of bearing witness — in this case, to the historical trauma of Haiti’s January 2010 earthquake, in which as many as 300,000 people were killed.....The condition of crisis that Chancy evokes, simultaneously unimaginable and everyday, resonates as loudly as ever."


A Best Book of Fall. "[An] incredibly powerful read."


"A stunning commentary on racism, sexual violence, capitalism and the resilience required to rebuild a life."

<em>Washington Post</em>

“Myriam Chancy has written a gorgeous and compulsively readable, page-turner in the most haunting and stunning prose. This novel is exactly what we need during this time of uncertainty and crisis. What Storm, What Thunder’s characters reveal to us how to bend and not break when facing loss, grief, and displacement. If you love the works of Jesmyn Ward, Edwidge Danticat and J.M Coetzee, this is the book for you! Absolutely breathtaking!”

<strong>–Angie Cruz, author of <em>Dominicana, shortlisted for the 2020 Women's Prize for Fiction</em></strong>

"Chancy offers her readers the rare opportunity to view the earthquake’s aftermath from multiple angles, with every shadow of doubt, every glimmer of hope, illuminating the ever-expanding history of the catastrophe and its devastation."

-<em>BOMB</em> magazine

"This [book] is not to be missed."

<em>Publishers Weekly</em> <strong>(starred review)</strong>

"[What Storm, What Thunder] is a heartbreaking tale of regret and resilience, and a fiery rebuke of racism, violence and greed."

Time magazine

“In captivating and lyrical prose, Myriam J. A. Chancy brings the story of the Haiti earthquake to life, highlighting the profound ways our connections are deepened by tragedy. What Storm, What Thunder is a beautiful, haunting chorus of voices. This is a heartbreaking book, a striking achievement.”

<strong>–Zinzi Clemmons, author of <em>What We Lose</em></strong>

NAMED A Best Book of the Week and a Most Anticipated Book of October

<br/> Bustle

"What Storm, What Thunder is a striking and formidable novel by one of our most brilliant writers and storytellers. Lending her voice to ten survivors whose lives were indelibly altered by the January 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Myriam J. Chancy’s sublime choral novel not only describes what it was like for her characters before, during, and after that heartrending day, she also powerfully guides us towards further reflection and healing."

–Edwidge Danticat, author of <em>Everything Inside</em>

Best Book of the Week


“Myriam Chancy is a masterful writer. What Storm, What Thunder is an ecstatic collage of grief in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake of 2010. The book is devastating and tender, but it is not a spectacle of sadness — it is a show of humanity and care in the midst of great violence. Though there is much pain in the novel, Chancy reminds us through her careful narration that none of her characters ever went unloved.”

<strong>–José Olivarez, author of <em>Citizen Illegal</em></strong>

Other titles by Myriam J.A. Chancy

Related lists