Ms. Hen chose this book because it was on the list of women writers to read during Women’s History Month, which she has mentioned previously. It’s not Women’s History Month anymore, but Ms. Hen thinks it’s always a good time to read women writers.
At first, this collection of short stories startled Ms. Hen. The language used is sensual and poetic. She stopped reading a different book because the writing style was too plain and old fashioned and the difference between the two books is sharp.
All of these short stories are about Haiti, women in Haiti, men and women in Haiti, and people who have left Haiti for the United States. Ms. Hen loves reading about people with difficult lives that are different from her life.
The first story in the collection is “Children of the Sea,” is told through two characters, a man on a ship heading towards Florida and the woman he has left behind. The fear and dangers that these characters face changes them. The young woman in Haiti hopes in her heart that her loved one will survive, but she discovers what happened through an omen of a butterfly.
Superstitions run rampant in these stories. The people of Haiti carry their superstitions inside them the way some women hold their purses. Curses and charms bring good luck or bad luck. In the story, “A Wall of Fire Rising,” Guy dreams of a better life when he sees a hot air balloon rising near their tenement shack. His wife, Lili, thinks it is a bad omen. He does not think of consequences. His young son, Little Guy practices his lines for the play in which he will appear. He says the lines while his father faces his destiny. Lili wishes Guy had never tried to leave without them.
In the story “Caroline’s Wedding,” a family plans for a woman’s wedding. Caroline was born with half an arm. She and her sister teach ESL at a school and live with their mother. The mother carries her Haitian roots close. This is a thoughtful story about a family dealing with problems, and trying to work things out.
Ms. Hen really loved this book. She loved the language of this book and the singing voice of the writer. The epilogue was also intriguing to Ms. Hen. In it, the author talked about women who write and how women in her family didn’t write. If they did, they were considered kitchen poets because that is the only place their poetry mattered or could be heard.
Ms. Hen understood what it is like to be in a family of women who have never written. If the women in Ms. Hen’s family did write, they didn’t write anything substantial. Sometimes, a person has to be the first one in the family to talk about history and why things are the way they are. Ms. Hen came to this realization when she finished the book on the train one night. There should be a person to tell the truth. Ms. Hen wants to be that person.