Though she’s a fellow Barnard alum, I’ve never read Edwidge Danticat, having always supposed there would be a huge amount of dialect in her writing. (As I’ve said here before, dialect-heavy books are always a slog for me). Little did I know there’s hardly any dialect in here at all – maybe a sentence or two written in Creole but always explained afterward. If dialect is your concern, put it aside!
Next, know that this a gorgeously written book. Ann Patchett calls it deft and it is, not only because the prose flows as seamlessly as a slight of hand but also because the plot choices are so subtly rendered. At first this book seems to be a holding place for the story of many disparate characters, but as it progresses, we see how all of these people are linked together. It’s really ingenious the way Danticat does this – revisiting the same scene from so many different angles and perspectives.
There is folkloric beauty in Claire of the Sea Light and Danticat is a riveting storyteller. All of her narratives – both separately and twined – have the element of pure human interest. She packs so much story into these 220 pages and though you’ll be able to read them quickly, try to savor the language and the technique. Enjoy it and if you’re a writer, learn from it.
I read this book for the writing, which is singularly, luminously good, but I also read it for the story. It’s rare that a book succeeds on both counts but this one does. I’ll definitely be reading more of Danticat’s backlist in the new year!