It charts the return to Haiti by Montreal based Laferriere, who left his motherland to escape Baby Doc’s brutal dictatorship. His first stop is New York to attend his father’s funeral (who was also an exile). Then it’s on to Port-au-Prince to meet up with the family he has not seen for decades, and to give his mother the news of her long lost husband.
The book alternates between poetry and prose as the author tries to come to terms with his return to his homeland; the poverty, the crime and the poor infrastructure. The feelings it arouses in Laferriere are clearly too painful and poignant for a straight description of what he comes across. He uses a lot of simile and metaphor which I think does his experience more justice: ‘A day here lasts a lifetime/ You’re born at dawn./ You grow up at noon./ You die at twilight.’
I didn’t choose this book- it was sent as a substitute for something else by Newbooks Magazine. But it was a happy accident because I loved the beautiful and sharp imagery and although Laferriere doesn’t give us a clear resolution, we share his journey all the more for it: ‘Returning South after all these years/ I am like someone/ who has had to relearn what he already knows/ but had to forget along the way.’
Read this if you want a trip out of your literary comfort zone.