Reading Group Center

Edwidge Danticat on the Power of Community in Claire of the Sea Light

In Claire of the Sea Light, her first work of adult fiction in nearly ten years, Edwidge Danticat grants us entry into the world of the imagined seaside town of Ville Rose, Haiti. At the heart of the novel is Claire Foustin, an enchanting young girl who disappears on the eve of her seventh birthday—the very night when her poor fisherman father makes the wrenching decision to give her away to a prosperous local shopkeeper. This little girl is as luminous as the sea: Claire Limyè Lanmè, Claire of the Sea Light. Danticat’s tale sparkles—much like her central character—with the lyricism and magic of a prose master at the height of her abilities. In the company of various residents of the community, the narrative takes us on a journey through time and shines its spotlight on those connected to the beloved little girl, revealing the painful secrets and unavoidable truths of their lives.  We meet the fabric vendor; the schoolmaster; his son, who’s recently returned from abroad; and the town’s most popular radio journalist.

In an interview for PBS, Danticat talked about the way in which her story expanded from simply being about Claire, her father, and her soon-to-be adoptive mother into one about the entire town, as it grew to show the healing power of community. To learn about how the characters in Claire of the Sea Light sprang into life, the real-life basis for the town of Ville Rose, and more, watch the full interview below or click here to view it on YouTube. Don’t forget to use our reader’s guide in your discussion of Danticat’s spellbinding book!