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EVERYTHING INSIDE by Edwidge Danticat Kirkus Star


by Edwidge Danticat

Pub Date: Aug. 27th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-525-52127-3
Publisher: Knopf

In her first collection of short stories in more than a decade, Danticat tackles the complexities of diaspora with lyrical grace.

Danticat (The Art of Death, 2017, etc.) is a master of economy; she has always possessed the remarkable ability to build singular fictional worlds in a matter of sentences. This collection draws on Danticat's exceptional strengths as a storyteller to examine how migration to and from the Caribbean shapes her characters, whether they're scrounging up savings to pay ransom for a kidnapping, navigating youthful idealism and the pull of international aid work, or trying to erase the horrors of immigrating to the United States by sea. In "Dosas," Elsie, a home health care worker in Miami Shores, is shocked by a panicked phone call from her ex-husband about his new girlfriend's kidnapping in Port-au-Prince. What becomes increasingly clear, however, is that Elsie's ex-husband is a two-timing scammer who has derailed Elsie's life in more ways than one. With great care, Danticat demonstrates the razor's edge on which Elsie's own financial and emotional security is balanced: from the sacrifices she makes to send Blaise money to her fears about the safety of her own family. "Maybe there was something about her that wasn't enough," Elsie thinks, as she reconsiders her marriage. "Or something about him that wasn't enough....Some people just want to go home, no matter what the cost." When two former lovers meet for dinner on the Fourth of July in "The Gift," they struggle to reconnect across a yawning chasm of loss caused by the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti in 2010. And, in "Without Inspection," an undocumented construction worker hurtles to his death from rickety scaffolding, imagining final visitations with his lover and adopted son. These are stories of lives upended by tragedies big and small, from political coups to closely guarded maternal secrets. Throughout each story, Danticat attends to the ways families are made and unmade: Mothers yearn for children, women recover from divorce, and aging parents suffer from dementia or succumb to death. No one is immune from pain, but Danticat asks her readers to witness the integrity of her subjects as they excavate beauty and hope from uncertainty and loss.

An extraordinary career milestone: spare, evocative, and moving.