CLAIRE OF THE SEALIGHT
By Edwidge Danticat
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf 2013
Source: personal copy
This new book of fiction by Edwidge Danticat tells connected stories of some of the people who live in the small seaside town of Ville Rose in Haiti. But a little girl named Claire Lemye Lanme holds center stage, and the reader waits to learn Claire’s fate.
Ms. Danticat skillfully creates varied characters. Some are misguided or confused. But some, like Claire’s father, show respect for others. The letter he writes his daughter conveys in a simple, yet elegant manner his caring love for her. He is inspiring in his struggle to do the very best for her. The book is filled with compassion for the characters, no matter their struggles. The author makes life’s opposing forces more understandable. It is as if she has woven a colorful large wall-hanging to tell the stories of the people who live in Ville Rose.
When she writes about Haiti, the reader sees the different colors and hears the different sounds more plainly than if standing where the water rippled over one’s feet. It’s as if the reader could actually taste the salt and wet air of that place. And sometimes the poverty felt like a coat too heavy for that warm place.
Claire’s father is expecting to give Claire to someone else, so that she can have a better life. What is ahead for the shiny little girl who has already lost her mother and whose father, a poor fisherman, is planning to give her to another? Readers see Claire playing a children’s game with her friends at the beach as the complicated lives of some of the villagers swirl around her.
In spite of all the activity and different kinds of danger present in the village, loneliness is a major presence. The reader comes to understand how pervasive loneliness can be, no matter the place, time, or culture. We see characters run from it and confront it. Danger and loneliness are common to most human experience. Sometimes safety and companionship are illusions. Though at first glance it may not seem so, this is a universal story.
The beautiful writing, each paragraph was carefully constructed, held me captive. Words were clear and pleasing to the ear. But I most enjoyed the thoughtfulness with which it was written, and I admired the respect this author showed for her characters.