“I know what will happen,” he said. “You tell the story, and then it’s retold as they wish, written in words you do not understand, in a language that is theirs, and not yours.”
This is a story carried out of a genocide. It’s fiction loaded down heavily with the kind of truth you wish you didn’t have to believe – maybe that’s why the lyrical sentences are so full of images of sinking, falling and opening, of spaces and flesh pressed, distorted, cut.
There is nuance here. Our Haitian Black woman narrator is impromptu midwife to the White Dominican woman she serves, and the twins she delivers gather subtle and stark signs of racism & sexism around them in shapes of compromised love, complicated grief… I wanted to know what became of the children, and I know Danticat was making me feel with Amabelle there, while she was struggling with survival and through the primacy of other loyalties.
If Danticat allows us to imagine that Amabelle’s emotional ties are in tension across national and class boundaries, her focus is clearly on Amabelle’s own reality and the lives of the sugar cane workers. This narrative belongs to a servant and worker class of Haitians; even though its sweep is broad and generous, class and national solidarities are at its core. Shared knowings and defiant, deep valuing of each other among Anabelle’s people drive the cooperation that saves lives and the storytelling that saves memories.
Danticat teaches that memories are a mixed blessing. Most of them, in this book, are painful. But the sweet ones, just as necessary, are a saving grace…
Oh and as a love story, this is gorgeous.