9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Well crafted and worthwhile but hard to engage,
This review is from: Brother, I'm Dying (Vintage Contemporaries) (Paperback)
Stories of Haiti and its people are important but marginalized in most of the US. This book tells one such story in a spare and elegant way through the experience of Edwidge Danticat's family. The family, and by implication Haiti itself, is portrayed as a complex mixture of vibrancy, bad luck, love, and victimization. The US stirs that mixture in both big and small ways--through government policies and human relationships. The book ultimately provides a worthwhile representation of how immigrant families can love the opportunities of the US--the father as a cab driver able to establish his children for thriving lives as writers and financiers--while resenting the costs--the petty bigotry of immigration officials inured to an uncle's genuine desperation. And of how such a family can love Haiti--the uncle as a voiceless preacher tending to a loving flock--while fleeing the desperation--the mobs of para-military youth that use violence as a pathetic grasp at small feelings of power.
But while the book was worth reading, and while I grew to admire the crafting of the writing over its course, I was also a bit disappointed. Perhaps part of my disappointment may be because I have heard and read much acclaim for Danticat's writing and for this book in particular. I may have expected too much. But the first third of the book read as slow and self-indulgent. Though the family's story is ultimately quite engaging, the reader is not given an opportunity to understand why we should care as much as the narrator. Further, though Danticat herself tries to stay out of the way of the story of her father and uncle, that effort ends up feeling a bit hollow. By only inserting bits about her own role as dutiful, loving, and conflicted, the author reads as more naive than the sophistication of her prose suggests.
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Initial post: Jan 9, 2013 1:23:00 PM PST
Janet Allen says:
A very thoughtful review. I look forward to reading the book, and will see whether I agree with AM Guest, or not. It didn't stop me from wanting to read this author.
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