Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat

2 of 24
Claire of the Sea Light
256 pages; Knopf
Edwidge Danticat's Claire of the Sea Light is set in the fishing village of Ville Rose, "crammed between a stretch of the most unpredictable waters of the Caribbean Sea and an eroded Haitian mountain range." There we meet 7-year-old Claire Limyè Lanmè, named for her mother (who died in childbirth) and the luminous effect of the sunlight striking the ocean. Claire lives with her father, a poor fisherman working waters that, on occasion, rise as a wall "from the depths of the ocean, a giant blue-green tongue, lick a pink sky." Even if the sea doesn't take him, he knows he cannot provide his daughter with a bright future, so for years he's pressed a prosperous local woman (whose own daughter died in an accident) to adopt Claire. On Claire's seventh birthday, when the woman finally agrees, Claire runs away. Danticat has created a pulsing world of fictional characters—among them a radio talk-show host with ulterior motives; an undertaker turned mayor; and Madame Gaëlle, who agrees to care for Claire as her replacement child. Their haunting stories make up a web of relationships, coincidences, misunderstandings, and ambitions—a multifaceted Haitian love story in which the shimmering Caribbean is both friend and foe. Danticat is expert at subtly exploring such themes as the far-reaching consequences of poverty and the powerful bonds between parent and child. On these pages, the human heart is laid open and the secret contents of its chambers revealed in all their beauty and agony.
— Tayari Jones