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Discussion Guide

What Storm, What Thunder

By Myriam J A Chancy

A Buzzfeed, Washington Post, Good Housekeeping, Vulture, & Library Journal Best Book of Fall


“Sublime. A striking and formidable novel by one of our most brilliant writers and storytellers.”  ―Edwidge Danticat


The earth had buckled and, in that movement, all that was not in its place fell upon the earth’s children, upon the blameless as well as the guilty, without discrimination.


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, witness is given 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.

This discussion guide and recommended reading was shared and sponsored in partnership with Tin House.

Discussion Questions

Use these discussion questions to guide your next book club meeting.

Why do you think Myriam J.A. Chancy chose Ma Lou to frame the story?
Which character in What Storm, What Thunder do you most identify with? Which do you least identify with and why?
How do you react to the death of Richard? of Olivier? Could their deaths have been avoided?