The book records the fragmentary testimony of a prostitute working in Grand Rue in the city’s red-light district, whose life has been shattered by an event she can scarcely bring herself to name. Earthquake, tremblement de terre in French, tranbleman tè in Haitian Creole – there is no word, in any language, that can adequately convey the scale of the destruction. She refers to it simply as cette chose, ‘this thing’.
When she discovers that one of her customers is a writer, she strikes a deal with him: write about the whores who had “disappeared into this thing,” she commands him, a book “to bring them back to life and make them immortal….[To] find the right way to express her pain, her memories, her anxieties, everything… Write with someone else’s wind in my sails. Every word stalked by her tears, her silence. Every last bit of this unknown, unfathomable world…”