Saturday, November 23, 2013

Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat

With too many other books currently on the go and a looming TBR, I nearly abandoned Claire of the Sea Light when I was about 30 pages in. But because I greatly admired another of Edwidge Danticat's novels, The Dew BreakerI persevered. I am so glad that I did, because it only took a little longer to get me totally hooked. Claire of the Sea Light is a radiant and worthy novel.

Claire is a girl who disappears on her seventh birthday in a small town in Haiti. Danticat starts there, then circles back and around in a way that imitates the singing game Claire played with other little girls on the beach that evening.

One character and then another steps to the middle of the story and we gradually get a sense of Claire's place within a larger, interconnected community. There is a gay storyline that is particularly heartbreaking, but also linked to the redemption in the final pages. Very rewarding.

Readalikes for those wanting entwined narratives: Is Just a Movie (Earl Lovelace); How to Paint a Dead Man (Sarah Hall); The Lighthouse (Alison Moore); Ghana Must Go (Taiye Selasi); Visitation Street (Ivy Pochoda); and The History of Love (Nicole Krauss).

For another take on contemporary life in Haiti, plus historical context, I suggest reading In Darkness (Nick Lake).

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