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Claire of the Sea Lightby Edwidge Danticat
Synopses & Reviews
From the best-selling author of Brother, I’m Dying and The Dew Breaker: a stunning new work of fiction that brings us deep into the intertwined lives of a small seaside town where a little girl, the daughter of a fisherman, has gone missing.
Claire Limyè Lanmè — Claire of the Sea Light — is an enchanting child born into love and tragedy in Ville Rose, Haiti. Claire’s mother died in childbirth, and on each of her birthdays Claire is taken by her father, Nozias, to visit her mother’s grave. Nozias wonders if he should give away his young daughter to a local shopkeeper, who lost a child of her own, so that Claire can have a better life.
But on the night of Claire’s seventh birthday, when at last he makes the wrenching decision to do so, she disappears. As Nozias and others look for her, painful secrets, haunting memories, and startling truths are unearthed among the community of men and women whose individual stories connect to Claire, to her parents, and to the town itself. Told with piercing lyricism and the economy of a fable, Claire of the Sea Light is a tightly woven, breathtaking tapestry that explores what it means to be a parent, child, neighbor, lover, and friend, while revealing the mysterious bonds we share with the natural world and with one another. Embracing the magic and heartbreak of ordinary life, it is Edwidge Danticat’s most spellbinding, astonishing book yet.
"In this gorgeous, arresting, and profoundly vivid new novel, Danticat once again tells a story that feels as mysterious and magical as a folk tale and as effective and devastating as a newsreel. Claire Limyè Lanmè ('Claire of the Sea Light') is turning seven, and yet her birthday has always been marked by both death and renewal. Claire's mother died in childbirth, and she has been raised by her fisherman father in a shack near the sea. The book begins there — in the shack, on the morning of her birthday — before winding back to tell the story of every previous birthday, and who lived, and died, each year. For some time, Claire's father has considered giving her to a wealthy businesswoman who lost her own daughter, and the heartbreaking question of Claire's fate adds to the novel's suspense, as both the past, and this single day, unfold. In the meantime, Danticat (Krik? Krak!) paints a stunning portrait of this small Haitian town, in which the equally impossible choices of life and death play out every day. Agent: Nicole Aragi, Nicole Aragi Agency." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“The fablelike delicacy, lyricism, and hypnotic prose of Danticat’s new novel [are] perfectly suited to its setting, the tragic and yet magical seaside town of Ville Rose....The title character is a 7-year-old girl who goes missing in the first chapter and stays missing until the very last pages, as a portrait of Ville Rose’s sometimes beautiful, sometimes brutal reality is painted and a collision of fates inches closer....There is humor here alongside grief. Danticat’s work opens itself to a broader readership through her deft intertwining of the specific and the universal....In and out of bedrooms, graveyards, restaurants and bars, even the local radio station, she creates rich and varied interior lives for her characters....Over the years, Danticat has become the bard of the Haitian diaspora. [But] this book is firmly planted in her homeland, a fictional community whose comings and goings are less connected to any earthly destination as they are to the great beyond....Fantastical, heartbreaking.” Deborah Sontag, The New York Times Book Review
“Danticat is as well known for her mastery of language as she is for tackling difficult subjects. With her latest novel, she takes a nuanced approach to Haiti’s complex legacies....She keeps the reader in suspense, introducing characters to reveal the ties that bind generations not only to each other but also to their vulnerable natural environment....Claire [is a] spirited waif wise beyond her years — as children raised in dire conditions often are. Her disappearance set[s] the stage for revelations of the intertwined lives of the disadvantaged and the privileged. It’s much too early to say whether Danticat has reached her prime as a writer, but with Claire of the Sea Light, she has written a mature love letter to her homeland.” Gina Athena Ulysse, Ms.
“On her seventh birthday, a girl wakes up in a shack by the sea. She has no mother; her father, a fisherman, is considering giving her away. As that setup suggests, this novel has some of the feel of a fairy tale. But its ethereal qualities are offset by its stark portrayal of life in small-town Haiti; the combination makes for a lovely book to read, by the sea or anywhere else.” Kathryn Schulz, New York magazine
“Raw, dark, poetic — Danticat at the top of her game....[She] has created a pulsing world of fictional characters — among them a radio talk-show host with ulterior motives; an undertaker turned mayor; and a prosperous local woman whose own daughter died in an accident [and] who agrees to care for Claire as her replacement child. Their haunting stories make up a web of relationships, coincidences, misunderstandings, and ambitions — a multifaceted Haitian love story in which the shimmering Caribbean is both friend and foe. Danticat is expert at subtly exploring such themes as the far-reaching consequences of poverty and the powerful bonds between parent and child. On these pages, the human heart is laid open and the secret contents of its chambers revealed in all their beauty and agony.” O, The Oprah Magazine
“Masterful storytelling. When Claire, the daughter of widowed fisherman, disappears on the night of her seventh birthday, [he] and his neighbors undertake a search for her that stirs painful memories and forces them to confront startling truths about their own lives. Chapters of the story alternate among narrators, [and] each of their stories is beautifully, unexpectedly intertwined with that of Claire and her parents. As Danticat’s narrative unspools with the swift cadence of a fable, it imparts shocking revelations about these intricately flawed characters....The unerring lyricism of Claire of the Sea Light illuminates the poignant struggle for ordinary connection and peace in a country of ravaged homes and hearts.” Elle
“A haunting portrait of heartbreak and healing....One of Danticat’s finest novels....[She is] a powerhouse writer....Like the best works of Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez and novelist Maryse Condé, Claire of the Sea Light fearlessly bends time and space, reality and fantasy. Yet the storyteller never loses control of the narrative — or our attention. And she uses fiction for spot-on social commentary about the ways in which Black girls — those who go missing and those whose innocence is stolen — are often invisible even when in plain sight. In the end, this provocative fable, which plays out in a single night, delivers us back to our real worlds, safe enough but somehow touched in ways we may not fully know for days to come.” Essence
“A fictionalized tale that will enthrall, of Claire, who goes missing on her seventh birthday...with descriptions so vivid, you’ll imagine you’re walking down a street in the Haitian village of Ville Rose. Danticat weaves her magic as we wrestle with what’s happened to Claire, and why everybody in town [has] a secret that has to do with her.” Ebony
“Nuanced...intricate...intimate...evocative. Danticat’s prose has the shimmering simplicity of a folk tale and the same matter-of-fact acceptance of life’s cruelties and injustices. Yet despite the unsparing depiction of a corrupt society, there’s tremendous warmth in Danticat’s treatment of her characters, who are striving for human connection in a hard world. Both lyrical and clear-eyed — a rare and welcome combination.” Kirkus
“Highly anticipated....In interlocking stories moving back and forth in time, Danticat weaves a beautifully rendered portrait of longing in the small fishing town of Ville Rose in Haiti....[Characters’] stories and lives flow beautifully one into another, all rendered in the luminous prose for which Danticat is known.” Booklist
About the Author
Edwidge Danticat is the author of numerous books, including Brother, I’m Dying, a National Book Critics Circle Award and National Book Award finalist; Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah Book Club selection; Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist; The Farming of Bones, an American Book Award winner; and The Dew Breaker, a PEN/Faulkner Award finalist and winner of the inaugural Story Prize. The recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, she has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and elsewhere. She lives in Miami.
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