Review: Claire of the Sea Light

06Jan14
image spotted at repeatingislands.wordpress.com - click through to read the interview.

image spotted at repeatingislands.wordpress.com – click through to read the interview.

Claire of the Sea Light is the story of a little girl, the Haitian village where she lives, and the relationship between her individual life and the collective life of the community. The seaside town of Ville Rose is populated by fisherman and merchants, the very poor and the very wealthy living side by side. Nozias, a fisherman, is still grieving for his wife after seven years; she died in childbirth, leaving behind their daughter Claire Limyè Lanmè. Every year Nozias tries to convince another village woman–one who has lost her own child–to adopt Claire, so that she can have a better life. Each year the woman refuses, but on Claire’s seventh birthday, she says yes…and Claire runs away.

At this point in the novel Danticat pulls her narrative lens back a little wider to tell the interlinked tales of other villagers, each with their own griefs and sorrows. Nobody seems to be immune from violence and loss, and wealth and position are no guarantors of happiness here. Claire and her mother dance lightly across other characters’ awareness–everyone knows their story–and as they go through their daily lives, shouldering their burdens, the reader can see and feel how Claire’s story is part of the larger story of Haiti.

The soothing, rhythmic language Danticat uses contrasts vividly with the realities her characters face. There is much pain, and much need for healing, but there is beauty, too, and it is the juxtaposition between these forces that drives the novel. How do you go on living with a broken heart? As best you can. And sometimes, you can’t. When, at last, the narrative returns to the beach, and Claire decides what she is going to do about her own situation, we are left with a promise of hope and light. Readers who enjoy detailed settings will appreciate getting to know Haiti’s landscape, while those who read for plot will enjoy learning how the characters’ lives intertwine. Recommended for fans of literary fiction, world fiction, and naturalistic fiction about the human condition.

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2 Responses to “Review: Claire of the Sea Light”

  1. Ooh, a new Edwidge Danticat! I’ll have to keep an eye out for it.


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