On the 2nd May, 2008, Cyclone Nargis devastated the Irrawaddy Delta region of Burma. These communities of farmers and fishermen had no warning before disaster struck. And thanks to the incomprehensible actions of their ruling generals, it would be a full month before the international aid community was allowed to help.
This tragic event and the confusion that followed, as people inside and beyond Burma's borders struggled to help, despite the actions of the government, is where Larkin's book begins. Split into three sections, the opening part deals with the first month after Nargis, when the movements of Larkin and other foreigners was restricted to Rangoon, the former capital, trying to co-ordinate the aid mission with inexperienced locals.
Part two is more of a general overview of the ruling general, Than Shwe and his time in power, with a quick skip across Burma's history since the end of colonial rule. It also deals with the shocking events of September 2007, when Buddhist monks were beaten, killed, abducted and imprisoned after peaceful protests against the rising cost of living unsettled the government.
In both of these sections Larkin relies heavily on eye witnesses, some second or third hand, rumours and the propaganda-heavy official reports. As such the truth is very hard to find, giving contradictory views and murky pictures of a leader living in opulent isolation, blind to the suffering of his oppressed people.
In the final section Larkin actually visits the Irrawaddy Delta, six months after Nargis. At last able to describe the destruction with her own eyes, see the lack of support and take down personal accounts from the broken survivors, this is where the human cost is truly felt. These people have lost everything and still carry the burden of survivors guilt, seem so lost and hopeless, and that more than anything is heartbreaking.
In truth this book is not what the title claims - the true story remains untold, obscured by a bitter people, a callous government and a lack of answers. It's more an account of how secretive and paranoid the junta has become, and how little the international community appears to care. There are no answers or solutions to be found here, just a glimpse of a broken country whose hope has been destroyed bit by bit. It leaves one wondering how they will ever recover.