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The Great Divide

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Member Reviews

I received the audio book version and would rate it 3.5 ⭐️, however, I'm rounding up to 4 ⭐️ for the book overall. Initially I preferred the audio because I wanted to hear the pronunciation of the Spanish words but the narrator's voice was too monotonous and slow; increasing the speed did not improve it.
Luckily I had a copy of the book as well and read the last quarter.
I had expected the book to revolve around the building of the Panama Canal, however, it revolved around numerous characters and bounced back and forth to provide their backstories.
The book slowly pulled the characters together and provided a satisfying closure.
Thank you #NetGalley for providing the audio book in exchange for my honest review.

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The writing is lovely; however, this was really hard to follow in audio format only, Readers should be aware of multiple storylines and characters and consider whether they have the capacity for this in audio. I am sure some do! I quite enjoy historical fiction so I would try this again with a physical copy or e-book.

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It was good to look at the construction of the Panama Canal in a different way than what I've heard in History classes. However, this book got bogged down by the immense amount of characters. They were especially hard to keep track of in an audio book format. I would recommend this book for those who enjoy historical fiction, particularly those with an interest in the people affected by the building of the Panama Canal.

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The Great Divide
by Christina Henriquez
Pub Date March 05, 2024

This book was a very beautifully written and cover is gorgeous. The Panama Canal was built in 1907 which opened up many new things for the world. New jobs, adventures and opportunities for a new life. This historical fiction gives us a peek into what a huge project and how much of an impact it had on people not only in Panama but throughout the world. I learned a lot about how this adventure changed Panama and some of it not for the good.

I think this book gives a fair report of how progress can be good in the end but that many people are impacted by change. I really loved meeting the characters and following their stories. It touched the way families were divided and how groups had to work together to get to the common good.

The Great Divide is a wonderful view of how the resilience & determination of our spirit, and an amazing reminder that what we can be done on our own is nothing compared to what we can do together as a group of people. We should learn from our history so that we can not repeat the same problems over and over again.

Thank you to Christina Henríquez, ECCO, Harper Audio and NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.
Go find your next adventure in black and white.

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The Great Divide by Cristina Henriquez was a very engaging book about both the construction of The Panama Canal and the effect it had on the Panamanian people and those that came from far and near to help build it. The people of Panama were divided about how they felt about the construction of the canal. For some it was an opportunity to find employment and earn some income. A great many saw the canal as an infringement of their rights and a way for the Americans to take advantage of their country’s future. Those who chose to work to build the canal were subjected to long and grueling hours of hard manual labor. Some of the American supervisors were unrelenting and demanded unrealistic expectations of the workers. Other supervisors were verbally abusive and cruel to the men who worked for them. Mosquitoes also posed a serious threat to spreading disease among the workers, especially malaria. Many local people living in Panama were ordered to move their homes to make way for the canal. This was a hardship for a great many of the people who were being forced to comply with the directive. Some of these people banned together and refused to move but ultimately they were forced to move anyway. Cristina Henríquez vividly portrayed the conflict, consequences, dangers and opportunities that the construction of the Panama Canal brought to the people of Panama and beyond through the lives of several different characters. She masterfully wove the lives of these characters together to create a truly unique glimpse into how the construction of the Panama Canal changed and altered the lives of the people that both helped build it and were living there at the time it was being built.

The Great Divide was beautifully written with much compassion and insight. I enjoyed the main characters and their stories and how they were flawlessly connected by the end. There were a lot of characters, though, and I did find that I got confused at times. Cristina Henriquez‘s impeccable research was extensive and well done. I listened to the audiobook of The Great Divide that was beautifully narrated by Robin Miles. Of all the characters in The Great Divide, Ada Bunting and Omar were my favorite characters. There was something about their innocence and yet insightful thoughts and actions that moved me. I enjoyed listening to the audiobook of The Great Divide by Cristina Henriquez and highly recommend it if you enjoy historical fiction.

Thank you to Harper Audio for allowing me to listen to the audiobook of The Great Divide by Christina Henriquez through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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This book was worth the wait! Henriquez weaves so many plots and characters together in a way that is powerful and distinct while achieving seamless fluidity. The writing was beautiful, and the eye opening narrative was haunting. I can't stop thinking about this book.

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I really enjoyed listening to "The Great Divide". The narrator did a very good job of voicing all the different characters. The story was interesting as I knew little about the building of the Panama Canal for the people's perspectives.

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The Great Divide puts to rest the notion that colonialism is good for anyone, but ESPECIALLY for the indigenous people of the land that is being colonized. Told through the construction of the Panama Canal and all the PROGRESS! promissed, The Great Divide slowly but surely deconstructs anything good that could happen to the people of Panama from this literal invading force that removes them from their lands and families. This was an amazing multiple point of view story that gels incredibly at the end.

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The Great Divide is a wonderful read for lovers of historic fiction that enjoy the genre, at least in part, because of what they can learn about history and other cultures. This book follows several different characters with a variety of connections to Panama and the canal. Each character is so realistic and well developed that most readers will find someone they connect with.

I listened to an audio version of this book and the narrator did an excellent job. Thank you to #netgalley for providing me with an advanced copy of the audio in exchange for an honest review.

#netgalley #historicfiction #panama

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I listened to this one as an audiobook, and that may have skewed my thinking on at least one aspect of it. While this was not too long – 13 hours – it still seemed to be kind of “sprawling.” We met one character at a time, and didn’t start looping back on any of them for at least two hours… then, it was even later that they all started intersecting with one another!

I could spend a whole review trying to disentangle all the individual stories, but instead I’ll focus on a group of them that were the most interesting to me.

Ada is the first character we meet of her family, and she comes to Panama as a stowaway on a ship from Barbados. We see, with her and other characters, that many of the people in the story are not from the area at all, but just came to make some money. And not all of them are working directly on building the canal… but there is much work to be had because of the sudden uptick in population. People come to be doctors or housekeepers, run fruit stands, and do anything a growing population might need.

But, back to Ada. She comes because her younger sister is sick, and needs surgery. She is not afraid of work, but doesn’t have a specific goal in mind. In later chapters, we meet her mother and sister, find out more about the illness in question, and learn how her mother came to be raising two girls by herself. What stood out about this troupe was that all of them were strong characters, and were willing to endure racism and other indignities to get what they needed.

Ada herself, while she is in Panama, helps rescue another character when he falls ill. While she ultimately finds herself on the wrong side of a local doctor there – who is busy protecting himself and his own reputation – she later starts learning medicine from another doctor after she returns to Barbados.

Another set of characters – John and Marian – come down from East Tennessee. I include that fact for my fellow Tennesseans who may be reading this review.

And we do meet some locals. Most oppose the canal, and one community even rallies together to try to fight the encroachment onto land they’ve lived on for generations. But some also see it as an opportunity to find work, or meet people from other places. No group of people is a uniform entity, of course.

So, overall, I found a lot of interesting bits in these stories. I’d get into something that was going on… and then we’d change to a different character. Especially during the beginning, when the stories weren’t connecting yet, this felt arduous. But, this is where I think that maybe listening was harder than reading? Like, could I have bookmarked where certain stories left off for when I inevitably returned to them later? (Would I have taken the time to do so, though, really?) Things to ponder.

If you’re interested in multi-perspective historical fiction with an epic scope, this is one you may be interested in. It was not a portion of history I’d ever read a fiction piece about, at least, and that was what drew me to this one.

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The Great Divide by Cristina Henriquez is a sweeping novel of historical fiction set during the building of the Panama Canal in the early 1900s. I received a digital advanced audio copy of this title, and was looking forward to reading the different perspectives of those lives impacted. From residents forced to move away from their lifelong homes to those migrating to the area looking for work to activists opposing the creation of the Canal, the novel follows several characters in different positions that bring life to the building of the Canal that the average person may not think about.

For the audio version, I loved the narration - clear, energetic, and easy to understand, Robin Miles is a narrator I have listened to before and enjoyed, so I was glad to hear her again for this title I had been waiting to come out. I love listening to historical fiction books in audio because it breathes life into the stories, and this one was exactly what I had hoped.

Hearing all of the character stories wind together, bringing ordinary people's stories to the forefront of this massive project that would become the Panama Canal, it was the perfect blend of story and history. Thank you to Harper Audio and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review The Great Divide!

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I never imagined a novel about the construction of the Panama Canal could be so lovely!

The Great Divide tells the stories of people who lived and worked in Panama and how the construction shaped their lives. Marian is the botanist wife of a doctor trying to eradicate tropical disease. Ada is an intelligent teenager from Barbados who travels to Panama to work and send money home for her ill sister’s surgery. Omar knows he can’t follow in his father’s footsteps as a fisherman and so he joins the construction crew for purpose and companionship. My favorites are Joaquin and Valentina, an empty nester couple who unexpectedly become activists.

What I Loved:
- The setting! Panama was described so beautifully and descriptively that this book has me wanting to explore Panama.
- The characters! They were each so unique and I loved getting to know their personalities. I listened and the narration was excellent!
- The criss-crossing plots! Each character has their own story, but they often crossed paths in beautiful ways.

Didn’t Love:
- With *so many* characters, it took me about 1/3 of the way in before I was invested in anyone’s story.

Thank you NetGalley and HarperAudio for an ARC which I received to provide an honest review. This review reflects my opinion and experience.

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A poignant, sweeping saga spun around the greatest human feat of engineering!

Thanks, Harper Audio and NetGalley for the ALC!. Robin Milwa did an excellent job narrating this audiobook - her rendition instilled life into it like a motion picture!

Kudos to the author for the immense research and efforts she has put into presenting this stunning historical fiction. This was a great eye-opener that led me into the google rabbit hole, as I tried to learn about the construction of the Panama Canal in the early 1900s.

The narrative alternates between various protagonists who will directly or indirectly be affected by the ongoing work of the canal. What a clever way of crafting the tale around the isthmus of Panama, as it brings in the perspectives of people in various professions of this time, the Panamanian zeitgeist, the increasing foothold and influence of foreign powers, which are leading to unprecedented changes to the way of life in Panama.

We follow the fisherman Francisco who abhors the American powers establishing in Panama and is upset by his son Omar’s decision to become a digger.

Ada Bunting, the 16 year old who comes to Panama from Barbados to find work and help send money for her sister’s surgery.

John Oswald, the scientist in the pursuit of eradicating malaria in the tropics, who hires Ada, as a caregiver to his sick wife Marian, a botanist.

Wakim, the fish seller and his wife Valentina, who is on a mission to save her hometown of Gatun.

Ada’s character especially stood out, as I was in awe of this teenager’s bravery, presence of mind, ability to sacrifice and determination. Her mother Lucille, back in Barbados also amazed me with her strong independent, resourceful and hard-working personality.

Watching the lives and circumstances of all these folks intersect and revolve around the canal construction was fascinating. Grueling physical labor, the yearning for a better, brighter life while battling disease and death, the patriotism and fight for survival were all pictured realistically in this character driven novel.

Highly recommend!

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I was very excited when I saw this book was about the construction of the Panama Canal. This book definitely did not work for me. It was a struggle to get through the book. There were way too many storylines going on and the amount of characters was confusing. I think that I might have done better with the actual book instead of in audiobook format.

Thanks to NetGalley and Ecco for the advanced digital audiobook.

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The writing was wonderful but it dragged on. The narrator was solid. I feels like an aptly historical depiction of the time period, which is always refreshing. Historical fiction is not always my first choice, but this did keep me engaged.

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The Great Divide is written in a unique format, following a wide array of characters whose lives eventually intersect, no matter how subtly. The first several chapters introduce these characters: a teenaged girl from Barbados looking to make money to pay for her sister’s life-saving surgery; a teen boy who’s at odds with his dad but wants to make his own way in life; a couple from Tennessee there to study mosquitos and malaria; a Panamanian couple whose hometown will be forcibly moved to make way for the new canal. As the chapters progress, readers get glimpses of other characters, some whom we’ll only know for a few paragraphs, others who will get entire sections to illuminate their backstories.

I went into this book expecting it to be more focused on the construction of the Panama Canal, but it went in a rather different direction. It’s character-driven, and only one of the main characters is working on the canal’s construction. Most of the characters are somewhat peripheral to it, though still greatly affected by the influx of Americans to Panama. There are jobs to be had, but also new forms of bigotry and control against Panamanians. While this book had a different focus than I’d anticipated, I still enjoyed it and found it fascinating to learn about the kinds of people who don’t make the history books.

There is a lot of emphasis on family relationships and on forging your own path. Both of the teenaged characters have minds and goals of their own, regardless of what their parents may want for them. Ada is perhaps my favorite here, a young woman who loves her mother and sister and will do whatever she can to help fund the surgery her sister needs. She’s smart and hard-working, and she doesn’t let others get her down. Omar is another great character, a daydreamer who wants something different than his fisherman father. He and his dad, Francisco, have a strained relationship, owing mostly Francisco’s frustrating immaturity and stoicism.

There are plenty of characters and events that may inspire anger while reading. Some characters are despicable (such as Miller and the French doctor), and the fact that the entire town of Gatún needs to be relocated—thus displacing the many families living there—is disheartening to read about. Even so, this novel creates a richly drawn and nuanced look at so many different ways the Panama Canal impacted people in Panama and those from surrounding areas.

Robin Miles does an excellent job of narrating The Great Divide. Her voice is a perfect balance of soothing and engaging, and she does a wonderful job of depicting the different accents the characters have: from Panama, Barbados, Tennessee, and more. She juggles the numerous characters well, making the audiobook easy to follow and immersive for the listener.

The Great Divide unfolds like a tapestry, one in which some characters and plot lines intersect and others stay just out of each other’s reach. It offers an unexpected look at a piece of recent history and the lives that were affected by the Panama Canal. This is the first novel I’ve read that is set in Panama, and my first time reading Cristina Henríquez, and I’m eager to explore more books like it.

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Cristina Henriquez's The Great Divide invites readers on a poignant journey through the tumultuous landscape of 1907, where the Panama Canal emerges as a pivotal backdrop shaping the destinies of diverse characters. At its heart, the narrative is a captivating exploration of human resilience, interconnectedness, and the profound impact of seemingly inconsequential choices.

Henriquez masterfully intertwines the lives of Ada, a courageous young woman from Barbados driven by a selfless mission; a couple endeavoring to combat malaria amidst the canal's construction; and Omar, a teenager grappling with loneliness and the quest for self-validation. As their paths converge, each character's narrative unfolds with gripping intensity, illuminating the intricate tapestry of human experiences against the backdrop of historical upheaval.

One of the novel's greatest strengths lies in its ability to evoke empathy and introspection. Through Henriquez's skillful prose, readers are not only transported to a bygone era but also compelled to reflect on the enduring relevance of themes such as sacrifice, friendship, and the ripple effects of individual actions. Ada's unwavering determination, the couple's noble pursuit of scientific advancement, and Omar's quest for belonging resonate long after the final page is turned.

While The Great Divide is undeniably a compelling read, with Henriquez's deft storytelling drawing readers deep into the lives of her characters, there are moments where the narrative pacing falters, hindering the flow of the overarching plot. Additionally, some character arcs may feel underdeveloped in comparison to others, leaving certain threads feeling less robust.

Despite these minor shortcomings, The Great Divide emerges as a poignant testament to the power of human connection and the indelible impact of individual agency. Henriquez's richly layered narrative invites readers to ponder the complexities of fate and the enduring legacy of shared humanity.

In conclusion, The Great Divide earns four stars for its compelling storytelling, vivid characterizations, and thought-provoking exploration of historical and emotional landscapes. Cristina Henriquez's masterful blend of Hispanic historical fiction leaves readers eagerly anticipating her future works, eager to embark on further literary journeys through her insightful lens.

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Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to listen to this audio book.
I have been seeing this book everywhere, from celebrity book clubs to top books of the month lists.
I’m going to have to read the book in print form. Something about this book didn’t translate to audio at all for me. It felt slow and a little confusing. For me with an audiobook, it needs to feel well paced for me to stay with it. Every time I turned it on, I felt like I needed to review everything in my head.
Not the audio for me, sadly. I’m going to round up to three.

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An interesting topic but having multiple points of view is hit or miss for me, and this was a miss. The book is short so I would never connect with the characters.

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For me, it's a 3.5 star read! Unfortunately, this one bored me more than most historical fictions I've read. I did find it fascinating to read about the Panama Canal as I wasn't already familiar with it. I am wondering if I might have enjoyed this more book in hand versus book in ears because of the amount of characters in the book. I did enjoy both Ada & Omar as characters and love how far Ada came from the time she arrived to the time her path changed. What a brave young lady to set out to help her sister! I would probably benefit from a recap of the book as I did check out at time and get confused by the character changes.

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