Deborah Rodriguez is an American author, hairdresser and humanitarian living in Mazatlán, Mexico. She has previously lived in Afghanistan, where she set up a beauty school training program to help women gain financial independence. She also opened a coffee shop in Kabul. She wrote two bestsellers based on her experiences in Afghanistan. Now in Mexico, she has another salon and a spa where she is helping women again to become independent. All of her books thus far have been based on her life experiences.
Rodriguez has used her occupation as a hairdresser and her passion for the plight of women to write her latest book, Island on the Edge of the World. It is set on the island of Haiti, in the Caribbean. Haiti has over 11 million people living in almost 28,000 square kilometres, a history of slavery, Vodou (voodoo) and is one of the poorest countries in the world. Haiti was the victim of a devastating earthquake in 2010 (killing over 250,000) from which it is still recovering. Unscrupulous gangs and apparent do-gooders have done more harm than good. It is a country in crisis.
Island on the Edge of the World is about four women, each searching for something. Charlie and her grandmother Bea come to Haiti to find their mother/daughter April, who they have not seen for many years. They hope to heal past hurts. April has not been in contact with either of them and this is their last-ditch effort to gain some sort of closure. Lizbeth is in search of a woman who may or may not be the partner of her recently deceased son and the mother of her grandchild. And Senzey is a young Haitian girl, trying to survive with no family or resources.
Island on the Edge of the World shines a spotlight on the devastation the earthquake of 2010 caused to the island. It speaks about the problems that occur when well- meaning people try to help but in fact, are making things worse, and those unscrupulous people who take advantage of others. It paints a vivid picture of the poverty in which many millions of people are living and the lengths to which they will go to survive. For example, selling/giving up their children, prostitution, stealing etc.
I had no idea life was this bad for the people living in Haiti and I found this story to be a real eye opener. I felt compassion for people with no choice and the fear for their life they can experience when they leave their home, especially when night falls. It helped me understand how we, as people of extreme privilege, can cause even more problems when we try to help. (sending second hand clothes to those in need may not necessarily help the economy because local people cannot sell their own goods). I was horrified with the conditions in which orphaned and abandoned children are living and the human trafficking which takes place.
Island on the Edge of the World is also a story with heart and the promise of a better future. We are on a journey with the four main characters as they all find a strength they never knew they had. It is written from the point of view of each of these characters and we are privy to their thoughts and flaws. I also found I wanted to know more about Haiti. I even had to regularly stop reading and Google to find out further information as the story unfolded.
If you enjoy a good yarn with strong female characters, and like to learn about new places, this is certainly the book for you.
Reviewed by Sue Mauger
Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: November 2019