WHY: “An extraordinary career milestone: spare, evocative, and moving.
“In her first collection of short stories in more than a decade, Danticat tackles the complexities of diaspora with lyrical grace.
“Danticat is a master of economy; she has always possessed the remarkable ability to build singular fictional worlds in a matter of sentences. This collection draws on Danticat’s exceptional strengths as a storyteller to examine how migration to and from the Caribbean shapes her characters, whether they’re scrounging up savings to pay ransom for a kidnapping, navigating youthful idealism and the pull of international aid work, or trying to erase the horrors of immigrating to the United States by sea.
“In ‘Dosas,’ Elsie, a home health care worker in Miami Shores, is shocked by a panicked phone call from her ex-husband about his new girlfriend’s kidnapping in Port-au-Prince. What becomes increasingly clear, however, is that Elsie’s ex-husband is a two-timing scammer who has derailed Elsie’s life in more ways than one. With great care, Danticat demonstrates the razor’s edge on which Elsie’s own financial and emotional security is balanced: from the sacrifices she makes to send Blaise money to her fears about the safety of her own family.
“When two former lovers meet for dinner on the Fourth of July in ‘The Gift,’ they struggle to reconnect across a yawning chasm of loss caused by the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti in 2010. And, in ‘Without Inspection,’ an undocumented construction worker hurtles to his death from rickety scaffolding, imagining final visitations with his lover and adopted son.
“These are stories of lives upended by tragedies big and small, from political coups to closely guarded maternal secrets. Throughout each story, Danticat attends to the ways families are made and unmade: Mothers yearn for children, women recover from divorce, and aging parents suffer from dementia or succumb to death. No one is immune from pain, but Danticat asks her readers to witness the integrity of her subjects as they excavate beauty and hope from uncertainty and loss.”
—KIRKUS, a starred review
“A haunting collection.
Danticat urges readers out of comfort zones to bear witness to urgent topics — refugee crises, polarizing inequity, violence, disaster — and alchemizes sorrow and tragedies into opportunities for literary enlightenment.”
–Terry Hong, in a starred review for BOOKLIST
“Outstanding and deeply memorable.
In plain, propulsive prose, and with great compassion, Danticat writes both of her characters’ losses and of their determination to continue.”
–PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, a starred and boxed review
. . . . .
FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOK:
Elsie was with Gaspard, her live-in renal-failure patient, when her ex-husband called to inform her that his girl- friend, Olivia, had been kidnapped in Port-au-Prince. Elsie had just fed Gaspard some cabbage soup when her cell phone rang. Gaspard was lying in bed, his head carefully propped on two pillows, his bloated and pitted face angled toward the bedroom skylight, which allowed him a slanted view of a giant coconut palm that for years had been leaning over the lakeside house in Gaspard’s single-family development.
Elsie pressed the phone between her left ear and shoulder and used her right hand to wipe a lingering piece of cabbage from Gaspard’s chin. Waving both hands as though conducting an orchestra, Gaspard signaled to her not to leave the room while motioning for her to carry on with her conversation. Turning her attention from Gaspard to the phone, Elsie moved it closer to her lips and asked, “Ki lè?”
“This morning.” Sounding hoarse and exhausted, Blaise, the ex-husband, jumbled his words. His usual singsong tone, which Elsie attributed to his actually being a singer, was gone. It was replaced by a nearly inaudible whisper. “She was leaving
her mother’s house,” he continued. “Two men grabbed her, pushed her into a car, and drove off.”