November 22, 2017

Book Review: KRIK? KRAK!

REVIEWER: TONI KAN
BOOK TITLE: KRIK? KRAK!
AUTHOR: EDWIDGE DANTICAT
PUBLISHER: VINTAGE CONTEMPORARIES
PAGES: 224
 
Sailing on a leaking boat, a group of Haitian immigrants exchange stories to keep the nagging fear of imminent death at bay. When the stories cease, the people begin to sing: “ Beloved Haiti, there is no place like you. I had to leave you before I could understand you.”
 
The stories in Edwidge Danticat’s collection of stories Krik? Krak! are tender and lyrical tales of pain and rage, love and loss as well as wonder and powerful imagination. In the nine stories that make up this collection which was shortlisted for the National Book Award in 1995, Edwidge Danticat looks at her native Haiti through the eyes of a daughter who has had to travel far in order to gain a better perspective of her confounding homeland.
 
The stories mine old and recent history for tales that throb with pain and anger, hope and despair as well as laughter and tears.
 
A boatful of Haitians fleeing the carnage at home perish at sea in the opening story, Children of the Sea while in Nineteen Thirty Seven, the second story in the collection, a woman accused of witchcraft dies in jail. A man despairing of his poverty rises in a balloon then plunges to his own death in  Wall of Fire Rising.
 
Whether writing from the perspective of Haitians in the inside or outside, Danticat manages to evoke the spirit of her homeland, calling things by their name and bearing witness to her people’s suffering within and without their borders while underlining always their courage and sacrificial giving.
 
In the opening story, a father sells off his house and gives up all he owns to save his daughters life, while in Caroline’s Wedding a woman lets her husband marry another woman so they can make anew and better life in America.
 
Pain and loss and tears are ever present in these stories as they tell of a people who have known incredible hardships but who continue to march on fueled by unstinting hope and the belief in the fact that all evil must necessarily come to an end.
 
In Wall of Fire Rising, when Guy plays Icarus and ends up dead at the feet of his wife and son, the foreman asks the dead man’s wife whether he should close his eyes. Her reply is a both calm and confounding: “No, leave them open,” Lili said. “ My husband, he likes to look at the sky.”
 
In Danticat’s stories, as in the Haiti they evoke, the people never stop dreaming and hope never dies.

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