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Posts Tagged ‘Edwidge Danticat’

Do you recall my saying I need to read something more uplifting? This isn’t it, especially. I love Edwidge Danticat‘s work. If you’ve been with me here at bookconscious for a long time you know I’ve reviewed Claire of the Sea Light (beautiful, a “delicate” book about human frailty) and The Dew Breaker (which is about a torturer — and yet Danticat portrays him with “psychological depth”). So when I saw Danticat had a new collection, Everything Inside, I ordered it for our library.

Her writing is still all the things I’ve said before — masterful, delicate, musical, rich — and her characters are multidimensional. The stories in this collection are not brutal, per se, but they peel back the curtain on the brutality of the world at large. This book explores the immigrant experience from several angles. Many of the stories are about love, and what we’ll do in the name of love, but they are also about other ordinary experiences — coming to terms with a parent’s dementia, dealing with post-partum depression, learning a family secret, trying to understand a friend or loved on who acts in a way we don’t expect, trying to be an adult, dealing with loss.

You definitely shouldn’t miss it. And maybe, reading it now is a reminder that for many people around the world and right here in the U.S., the experience of insecurity, illness, family strife, isolation, and fear is actually normal life.

 

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When I read Edwidge Danticat‘s The Dew Breaker in early 2010, I wrote here at bookconscious that I admired “her rich writing and the psychological depth of her storytelling.” That remains true now that I’ve read Claire of the Sea Light. What a beautiful book.

Claire is a little girl born born in a shack near the sea in Ville Rose, a fictional Haitian town. Her father is a fisherman, her mother, who dies giving birth to her, washes and dresses the dead at the local funeral parlor. Danticat draws a vivid portrait of the town and its people, connecting them and drawing them close around Claire until a fateful night when she turns seven.

I won’t give away plot details, but what I really liked about this book is the way Danticat weaves the stories of people from different walks of life and situations, men and women, young and old, into one big story, the story of being human and longing for a connection with others, a place to be at home in the world. Danticat is at once a keen observer — the details about Haiti and about her characters are absorbing and illuminating — and a generous commentator on the human condition.

Even when she’s writing about poverty or violence or death, Danticat’s writing is musical; I found myself wanting to hear this book aloud. For example, in a scene describing Claire’s father receiving Madame Gaelle, a well to do woman who has also experienced tragic loss, in his shack:

“She was there but not really. At one moment, her mouth opened and closed but nothing came out. She seemed to be recalling things she could not put into words.

He, though, was concentrating on his modest surroundings, on the way his cot caved in slightly under her weight. On the way the lamp was fluttering between shadow and light. . . . Her insistence on staying made him ashamed of his lack of comforts, of the smallness and feeble nature of his world.”

If any book about human frailty can be described as delicate, Claire of the Sea Light is it.

 

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