The Great Divide Book Review!

Book Synopsis

In "The Great Divide" by Cristina Henríquez, the Panama Canal's epic construction unfolds through the lives of Francisco, Omar, Ada, and John Oswald, shedding light on the uncelebrated souls shaping history's grand narrative.

About The Author

Cristina Henríquez, acclaimed author of "The Book of Unknown Americans," is celebrated for her insightful narratives. Her works have garnered prestigious accolades and her writing has graced esteemed publications like The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine.

Book Highlights


Epic Construction Tale:

Cristina Henríquez's "The Great Divide" unveils the Panama Canal's construction, illuminating the lives of unsung heroes in this ambitious engineering feat, promising a historical epic.

Personal Struggles:

Francisco's frustration with foreign influences clashes with son Omar's quest for connection, setting a poignant familial backdrop amidst the grandeur of canal construction.

Brave Stowaway:

Ada Bunting, a determined Barbadian, seeks work in Panama to save her sister. Her encounter with Omar intertwines their fates, revealing the human stories behind the colossal project.

Scientific Pursuits:

John Oswald's malaria eradication mission intertwines with Ada's path, adding layers of complexity as their lives intersect in a tale of ambition, loyalty, and sacrifice.

Searing Empathy:

"The Great Divide" explores the lives of overlooked individuals—activists, laborers, and more—carving history's course. Henríquez's narrative is both searing and empathetic.

Panama's Atmosphere:

The descriptive writing vividly transports readers to 1907 Panama, capturing the sweltering heat, muddy landscapes, and vibrant street scenes with immersive detail.

Beyond Construction:

Instead of focusing solely on construction fatalities, the narrative delves into the lives disrupted by the canal's creation, providing a nuanced exploration of its impact on Panamanians.

Rich Character Backstories:

The book introduces a myriad of characters with rich backstories, weaving them into a tapestry of life during the canal's construction. Some stories intersect, while others conclude uniquely.

Themes of Division:

Central themes include divisions in class, race, and relationships, exploring a haunting story of loss amid a constant longing for connection. The title's metaphorical resonance deepens the narrative.

Resilience and Unity:

"The Great Divide" underscores the resilience of the human spirit and emphasizes the power of collective achievement. It's a testament to the beauty of unity amidst historical challenges.

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