A tragic story of love, corruption and ambition, W. B. Garvey’s novel Panama Fever: Digging Down Gold Mountain serves as a vivid tribute to one of the most audacious, monumental engineering feats ever undertaken, even as it uncovers the forgotten story of those who gave everything to make that achievement possible. Panama Fever narrates the story of two young men recruited for the arduous work of constructing the Panama Canal. They are among the one hundred thousand West Indians who helped build the canal, nearly thirty thousand of whom perished during the process, mostly from mosquito-borne diseases such as yellow fever and malaria. By focusing on the story of these young men, Garvey is able to depict the human dimension of this vast, trying historical episode that made possible the dream of connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The novel opens with the story of the developing friendship between the two protagonists: Thomas Judah, a gadfly and the illegitimate son of a wealthy merchant, and Byron, a humble, trusting orphan fresh from a sugar plantation. Soon after they arrive at Col n Harbor to work on the canal, a powerful earthquake demolishes their work camp. Badly injured, Thomas falls in love with the beautiful young Creole woman who nurses him back to health and who, to their mutual frustration, intends to become a nun. Meanwhile, Byron, who has been taken under the wing of a local businesswoman running a salon and brothel, is falsely accused of being an insurgent and ends up in prison, where he narrowly escapes the firing squad and is brutally tortured. Contending against disease, political corruption, and other enormous difficulties impeding the construction of the canal, they pursue their dreams but find their views of success and happiness starting to diverge despite their shared beginning. Thomas has a chance to strike it rich with a claim to a secret lode of gold in Venezuela, and as the novel hurtles toward its climax, he faces a devastating revelation while Byron must make a fateful decision. W. B. Garvey invested years researching the historical background of Panama Fever, an imaginative reconstruction of a lost chapter of the Caribbean and African-American experience. A thrilling adventure, crackling with action and historical detail, Panama Fever brings to life the triumphs and tragedies of the men and women who left their homes and loved ones and helped fulfill humanity’s dream for a passage through the isthmus of Panama. A monumental undertaking spanning over thirty years, the canal’s successful construction would change the world forever by joining the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Panama Fever, an imaginative reconstruction of a major chapter of our history, is an ode to the unsung heroes who made this long-yearned-for wish a reality, a wish for which over thirty thousand gave their lives. A profoundly human story, it will appeal to those with a taste for daring adventures and anyone who has ever felt oppressed and dared to risk it all for the dream of a better life.
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