Dead Man in Paradise
Liz Dennett is a public service librarian in the Science and Technology
Library at the University of Alberta.
J.B. MacKinnon has always known that his uncle, Father Arthur MacKinnon,
was killed for speaking out against injustice during a revolution in the
Dominican Republic in 1965. But inconsistencies in the details of the
death always bothered him, so MacKinnon travelled to the island to try
to discover the truth. This book interweaves his search for answers with
his uncle’s story as a Canadian missionary priest in the Republic.
Once there, MacKinnon discovers that the truth is hard to find; it is
not spelled out neatly in some file, nor have the passing years made it
any less dangerous. As one of his newfound friends puts it, “When I
heard you were looking for the story of your uncle, I was worried … I
thought: Here in this country, the truth costs a lot.” The events of
40 years ago are still very relevant. There has been no acceptance of
responsibility, and there has been no restitution to the injured. This
is obvious in the passion and the pain that the victims of the political
instability still feel and the unwillingness of many people to discuss
the events, not to mention the convenient forgetfulness of those who
perpetrated crimes on their fellow Dominicans. Still, MacKinnon is able
to talk to a surprising number of people who remember both the Padre and
his death and is able to slowly piece together the most logical sequence
of events and the likely perpetrators.
The story is edgy and compelling, all the more so because it is true.
MacKinnon paints a rich picture of the Dominican Republic’s history,
people, scenery, and political troubles. He meets many fascinating
people and conveys their stories with authenticity and compassion. His
evocative use of language permits the reader to share in his elation,
nerves, and frustration as he persists along his path to discover the
truth. MacKinnon is a young writer to watch.