Separation and memory. These are the two things that, for me, define the lives of Edwidge Danticat’s characters in Krik? Krak!. The nine interconnected stories present us with the struggles of different women that have to deal with the political tension and the poverty in their country, Haiti, and how they affect their lives. Each story tells us about the pain and suffering that are the common trait of characters that have different backgrounds and varying expectations of life.
The opening short story, “Children of the Sea”, grabs the reader’s attention in such a way that it is impossible to put the book down. Two narrators, a young man and woman who love each other are writing letters that they will never exchange. Through their letters you learn of their haste and forced separation and the promise to write daily to one another so when they meet again they can read the letters and know what each of them went through. But the separation will not be temporary, as they hoped, and only the memory of that love will remain in the unread letters.
In these stories memory is the way that women find to stay alive forever. They keep in mind what the generations past lived, and they want to make sure to let their stories for posterity. Some of them are away from home, like Grace’s mother in “Caroline’s Wedding”, and try desperately to keep their culture alive by passing everything on to their daughters who live in a different world and cannot truly understand the traditions of their Haitian antecedents.
Danticat’s language is compelling; it urges us to feel the pain of those characters and to understand their nature and sympathise with them. All those characters have lost something or someone due to the political and economical instability of Haiti. By the end of the book you feel like you can really understand the narrator of the epilogue when she says:
“You have never been able to escape the pounding of a thousand other hearts that have outlived yours by thousands of years. And over the years when you have needed us, you have always cried ‘Krik?’ and we have answered ‘Krak!’ and it has shown us that you have not forgotten us.” (224)
This is the weigh of the memory of women’s lives. In this case it is that of Haitian women, but what it brought to my mind was the memory of all the women in the world that have suffered so much and fought for a better life for us. And it reminded me that we still have a long way to go.
The edition I read was:
Danticat, Edwidge. Krik? Krak!. Vintage Contemporaries: New York. 1996. Print.