Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat

There are some stories that sing to my soul, awaken my spirit, and connect with myself.

It seems as if I am drawn, pulled in, welcomed in for the poetic and lyrical writing of Edwidge Danticat and her abilities to make the most painful, beautiful.

Front CoverSuch is how it felt to me when reading Claire of the Sea Light.

Like the young girl, I was a motherless child.  Unlike her, my mother lived until I was four.  LIke her, I had a father overcome with grief from losing his love and from having a girl child who so looked like her.

The story unfolds in a seemingly single moment, a circular tale, with all the parties connected through this one event, then each going back in time for that one moment, that one ah-ha that made the rest explained.

In this oh-so-very-Haitian way of taking one's time to lure you into a tale that makes you obvlious of time, wanting desperately for the best of the one you were rooting for, sucking in your breath when the unexpected happened to the one who seemed so off throughout the tale.

Haitians are proud people, joyful, hopeful and spiritual people, there is no separation of one part of life from the other, of one from the other, even if by distance from Haiti to Miami or from mother-to-daughter.  All of life is connected.

With my ancestral origins in this lovely island, I feel a sense of connection whenever I read stories of the islands and imagine myself swimming among the fish of the sea at night, basking in the stillness of the moment, escaping the anger I felt at growing up motherless or at feeling powerless while adults were making decisions about my life.

We all have a story and need someone to invite us to Di Mwen or Tell me, to find healing in sharing, in speaking out that story that is interwoven in your life.  It is in the telling that we nurture the soul.

Edwidge gives us a glimpse into the inner lives of the people in the villages, of the hopes and dreams that still make a father want to do the best for his daughter, even if that means sending her away.  It is of parents protecting their children and hoping the decisions will bring the peace they hope.

Connections are part of the human existence, it is what makes us human.  We do not exist in a silo, there is a backstory that must be told in more than 140 characters.  Edwidge takes her time and invites the reader to take a deep breath, get a cup of coffee, turn off the noise, and sit by the sea for this tale of bonds deepened by the love of a child, of the heartache of everyday life, and the exuberance of love.

Pain is a part of life and she does not shy away from the pain of rape, of powerlessness that fills those without the economic resources to make a decision better for themselves.  The pain of the wealthy trying to cover up the mistakes of their children is a continuous them throughout history, of buying off or paying off someone to just go away to not shame the family name.  She uncovers the pain of unrequited love and forbidden love and of love releasing one to do what they always wanted to do in the first place.

Edwidge allows us to make our own decisions about heroes in this story that ends as beautifully as it is written, about a little girl who in the midst of everyone else's life issues, is the center of everyone's care.  She takes her time with the language and in a very unwestern way, makes us take our time to feel the experience of the characters that become a part of our lives.

Existing does not happen alone.  Connections are all around us, a part of us, and is what makes us human.



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