Edwidge Danticat chronicles the life of a young girl and those of the other residents of a village in Haiti.
Claire Faustin has never had a happy birthday.
Her mother died the day she was born. Her father, Nozias, is an illiterate fisherman who lives in a shack on the beach in a seaside village in Haiti. Every year on her birthday, he tries to give the little girl to the fabric vendor, a wealthier woman who lost her own daughter, in hopes that Claire will have a better life.
“The good news, Claire thought, was that her father did not try to give her away every day. Most days he acted as though he would always keep her.”
On the day Claire turns seven, the fabric vendor says yes, and Claire disappears. Claire of the Sea Light, by Edwidge Danticat, traces Claire’s birthdays back in time in a series of interlocking stories about the residents of Ville Rose, a fictional town that Danticat first wrote about in 1995’s “Krik? Krak!”
“Ville Rose was home to about eleven thousand people, five percent of them wealthy or comfortable. The rest were poor, some dirt-poor.”
When one of the characters’ mothers is asked what she is doing, she tells them, “I am churning butter from water” – trying to make something from nothing.
The novel movingly traces the interconnected lives of Gaelle, the fabric vendor; Max Ardin, Sr., who runs the school where Claire attends on scholarship; his son, Max Ardin, Jr; their former maid, Flore Voltaire; Louise George, host of a call-in radio show; and Bernard Dorien, a would-be radio journalist and friend of Max Jr.