Book Review: The World In Half

My most recent read, The World In Half  by Cristina Henriquez was a heartwarming novel I read over Christmas break.

“I believe the earth has a memory. That everything that’s ever happened throughout the time has left its trace in fine, featherweight particles that fell and sank back into the earth like dust. […] Humans forget everything eventually. Memories march out. They march away. But the universe keeps it all – in a rock, in the ocean floor, in the inner reaches of a mountain, in the fault lines in the crust – millions of years packed into the dirt. The universe holds on.” – The World in Half

Miraflores Reid attends the University of Chicago and studies Geology with a minor in Spanish. She lives with her mother, who unfortunately has early onset Alzheimer’s disease whose health is rapidly declining. Mira has never met her father, who is Panamanian. She’s always assumed her father broke her mother’s heart and willingly is not a part of her life. That is until she finds a small stack of letters from her father, Gatun, while she goes through her mother’s belongings. Upon reading the letters, Mira learns that her father not only loved her mother, but was also determined to join her mother in the States to raise their child together. Once Mira finishes the letters, she instantly decides to visit Panama to find the other half of the human that she’s made of. She lies to her mother by telling her she was invited on a trip to the Cascades Volcano Observatory (by her Science Department) in Vancouver, Washington for three weeks and instead flies off to Panama with little to no plans with the exception of the name and location of her hotel, Hotel Centro. Once Mira is in Panama, she befriends the doorman Hernan and his nephew, Danilo. With the help of Danilo, they search for Mira’s father.  Mira also searches for her identity and tries to bridge her two worlds into one.

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I did find some parts of the novel too far-fetched:

  • Mira lying to her mother about her three week trip. Even though her mother does have Alzheimer’s, no parent out there is going to send you off to a trip unless you provide proof and list of contacts.
  • I’ve been a college student – young and reckless, but, I would NEVER EVER fly off to a country I’ve never been in with little to no plans like Mira did. And, we do live in the 21st century (novel was published in 2009), so she could have done a bit of research of her father. She solely relies on the hotel phone book and by asking people that once worked at the Panama Canal.
  • Hernan and Danilo- again, I was young and reckless. But, staying with two MEN in an unknown country, NO. And, she just happens to fall in love with one during her brief stay in Panama (like her mother once did)? Though Mira does end up making a different decision than her mother once did, so I applaud her from learning from her mother’s mistake.

The Panama Canal, where Mira’s father once worked, splits the world in half, the Pacific ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, and is often used as a metaphor of Mira’s own life. I loved this metaphor of the Panama Canal as it is something we can all relate to as we face and triumph through our own trials and tribulations. What I found most interesting and heartbreaking was how one’s decision (Mira’s mother) made a rippling effect across continents. I can’t say I understand Catrina (Mira’s mom), but I found her past to be a reminder to myself of how one’s choices have the potential to define another person’s life. Though The World in Half was filled with implausibilities, it was overall heartwarming. I also found this novel informative and learned lots about the Panama Canal. It was the perfect novel to read over Christmas break as it brought clarity to the priorities in my own life.

Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

*Question: In the book, Danilo, who is Panamanian states that there are eight continents: Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia, Antartica, North America, South America, and Central America. Isn’t it funny how we learn differently depending on the place of education? In Korea, I learned that we had six because Europe and Asia were one continent – Eurasia. What did YOU learn?

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