"Never the Hope Itself: Love and Ghosts in Latin America and Haiti" (Harper Perennial), by Gerry Hadden: "Never the Hope Itself" is sure to induce envy in anyone who ever wanted to be a foreign correspondent.
Gerry Hadden had that dream job for National Public Radio, covering Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean for four years. He took the Mexico City-based position in 2000, after turning down the chance to devote three years to a meditation retreat in Australia. A laid-back Buddhist, Hadden makes his arrival in Mexico look easy, as if the job offer hinged on his love of Latin music as much as his fluency in Spanish.
Hadden's memoir may as well have been set 100 years ago, for all the seismic changes in the world since the early 2000s. His stories from Haiti, dark way stations along illegal paths to the U.S., corruption in U.S.-funded drug investigations in Guatemala and a devastating earthquake in El Salvador show that not only was Hadden an intrepid reporter, but he was also one with the financial backing of a major media outlet. There are fewer foreign-based U.S. journalists like Hadden working now.
When Hadden arrived in Mexico, Vincente Fox's presidential campaign held the promise of a stable government that could work with Washington on the problems of drug smuggling and immigration. Then came the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the cheering in a Mexico City cantina for the televised carnage as if it were fireworks hints at the darker stories Hadden would report afterward.
In between assignments, Hadden coped with a haunted house and a love affair that survived terrible timing. His memoir isn't about how he got the stories for NPR, but about how he tried to keep hope alive, for himself and for the people he interviewed. In many ways, Hadden has written a kind of 9-11 memoir examining what changed in those first few years after the attacks.
Even when read through a prism colored by post-9-11 security, a crippled economy, Haiti's catastrophic earthquake and the ever-rising body count from Mexico's drug wars, "Never the Hope Itself" makes a convincing case for accepting ghosts and choosing hope.