Claire of the Sea Light

It’s July 1 and time for a reading challenge update. I have read 17 books towards my goal of 52 books this year. Which Goodreads so kindly reminds me is only 33% of my goal and 17% or 8 books behind. Harumph. Some might say this looks hopeless, but with my impending move to employee emeritus at the bookstore I hope to be able to make some progress on this challenge. I’m not doing well on the Blue Willow Reading Bingo, either, as Claire of the Sea Light is the only book I finished in June.

Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat doesn’t come out until August. The book takes place in a small Haitian fishing village called Ville Rose. Like other Danticat works, the books feels more like a collection of short stories at the beginning, but then the characters lives begin to interweave and by the end you have a beautiful story of this place and these people.

The title character is being raised alone by her fisherman father who debates giving his daughter to a wealthy townswoman so that Claire can have a better life. Their simple life intersects in fateful ways with the town undertaker/mayor, the headmaster of the school, journalists, and others. Whatever binds these characters together, the strongest bonds are clearly family, and especially the bond between parent and child.

I just have to share this passage with you. To me, it is the essence of the theme of the book. Without giving much too much away, I need to tell you that the narrator here is a man with a son who has fathered a child. The child is now 9 and has never met his father or grandfather. The man is wondering about this boy, being raised by his mother.

So if Flore wanted to keep this boy for herself, let her. She might have a better chance of turning him into a decent man. Good luck to her, though. He hoped she would succeed. Let her try to raise a boy and help him become a man. Let her teach him how to tie his shoes, to shake hands properly. Let her show him how to swim, how to fly a kite. Let her show him how to sharpen a blade, to shave or otherwise, how to defend himself when attacked. Let her teach him to read and write and tell him all kinds of stories, the true meaning of which he never seemed to understand. Let her feel proud, then ashamed of him, then proud again.Let her long for him when his is gone and despise him when he’s in her presence. Let her wish for him to be another kind of son and for her to be another kind of mother. Let her see what it’s like to protect him from even his worst desires, to keep them from tainting his life forever. Let her try to show him the difference between right and wrong. Let her guide him to adulthood unscathed in a society where people are always looking for the next person to tear down. Let her school him on legacy, how one should honor and respect it and defend it at all cost. Let her learn one day how to forgive him and to forgive herself.

That’s the curse of parenthood isn’t it? We all feel in someway responsible for the adults that our children become; forgiveness always must be granted twice.


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