Summary and book reviews of Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat

Everything Inside

by Edwidge Danticat

Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat X
Everything Inside by Edwidge Danticat
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2019, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2020, 240 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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About this Book

Book Summary

From the internationally acclaimed, best-selling author of Brother, I'm Dying, a collection of vividly imagined stories about community, family, and love.

Rich with hard-won wisdom and humanity, set in locales from Miami and Port-au-Prince to a small unnamed country in the Caribbean and beyond, Everything Inside is at once wide in scope and intimate, as it explores the forces that pull us together, or drive us apart, sometimes in the same searing instant.

In these eight powerful, emotionally absorbing stories, a romance unexpectedly sparks between two wounded friends; a marriage ends for what seem like noble reasons, but with irreparable consequences; a young woman holds on to an impossible dream even as she fights for her survival; two lovers reunite after unimaginable tragedy, both for their country and in their lives; a baby's christening brings three generations of a family to a precarious dance between old and new; a man falls to his death in slow motion, reliving the defining moments of the life he is about to lose.

This is the indelible work of a keen observer of the human heart--a master at her best.

Dosas

Elsie was with Gaspard, her live-­in renal-­failure patient, when her ex-­husband called to inform her that his girlfriend, Olivia, had been kidnapped in Port-­au-­Prince. Elsie had just fed Gaspard some cabbage soup when her cell phone rang. Gaspard was lying in bed, his head carefully propped on two pillows, his bloated and pitted face angled toward the bedroom skylight, which allowed him a slanted view of a giant coconut palm that for years had been leaning over the lakeside house in Gaspard's single-­family development.

Elsie pressed the phone between her left ear and shoulder and used her right hand to wipe a lingering piece of cabbage from Gaspard's chin. Waving both hands as though conducting an orchestra, Gaspard signaled to her not to leave the room while motioning for her to carry on with her conversation. Turning her attention from Gaspard to the phone, Elsie moved it closer to her lips and asked, "Ki lè?"

"This morning." Sounding ...

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  • award image

    National Book Critics Circle Award
    2020

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

These are stories about the breakdown of human connections, of communication, of the body and mind. The Haitian settings are largely atmospheric—important, but hardly the most interesting aspect of the collection...If you like character-driven fiction with emotional depth and complexity, narrated by an author with a poet's linguistic sensibility, don't pass this one up...continued

Full Review Members Only (595 words).

(Reviewed by Lisa Butts).

Media Reviews

New York Times - Aminatta Forna
[A] beautiful book, which ends with the tender description of the final thoughts of a dying Haitian refugee — of “the airless sensation of his body” and of his love for his wife and child.

Kevin Chau, Lit Hub
Vast, moving, and intimate...Everything Inside explores all at once the full scope of human experience [and] tackles head on the complexity and impossibility of feeling.

NPR - Michael Schaub
Danticat's writing is, as usual, superb. There are no wasted words in Everything Inside; she writes with both economy and urgency, never resorting to glib aphorisms and never shying away from difficult questions. It's an immensely rewarding collection: The reader feels connected to Danticat's characters, but she refuses to manipulate her audience with anything mawkish or overly pat.

O, the Oprah Magazine
Haunting, profound—an answered prayer for those who have long treasured Danticat’s essential contributions to the Caribbean literary canon. These eight intimate tales, centered primarily around the diverse experiences of women in Port-au-Prince and Miami’s Haitian diaspora, probe what it means to love a deeply troubled country, to leave it, and to then come home. Danticat’s characters feel not like strangers, but close friends. How does an artist write so deftly from the outside about people’s interior lives? Everything Inside is an answer to that question: This remarkable writer shows us how.

Los Angeles Review of Books
Bittersweet, satisfying. Layering unsentimental, clear writing with resonant imagery, Danticat delivers elegant gut-punches of irony. How can and should the artist, the writer, and the privileged among us respond creatively to another’s suffering? How do we appropriately witness someone else’s pain? This is existentialist fiction: our full essence — everything inside — is not manifest until the moment of death. Everything Inside is [a] hallmark of Danticat’s mastery of prose—of the way she coaxes beauty from pain

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Extraordinary: spare, evocative, moving. Danticat tackles the complexities of diaspora with lyrical grace. This collection draws on her exceptional strengths as a storyteller...She asks her readers to witness the integrity of her subjects as they excavate beauty and hope from uncertainty and loss.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[O]utstanding and deeply memorable...In plain, propulsive prose, and with great compassion, Danticat writes both of her characters' losses and of their determination to continue: 'There are loves that outlive lovers.'

Terry Hong, Booklist (starred review)
Haunting...Danticat once again urges readers out of comfort zones to bear witness to urgent topics—and alchemizes sorrows and tragedies into opportunities for enlightenment.

Reader Reviews

Phyllis Stern

Moving and Absorbing Tales of Death and Renewal
Edwige Danticat in these delicately told stories faces head on the lives of immigrants from Haiti facing hardship there and here, people between two cultures, the high price of compassion. She tells the hard stories we need to hear, without political...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Little Haiti

Everything InsideSeveral stories in Edwidge Danticat's Everything Inside take place in Florida's Little Haiti neighborhood, a popular residence for Haitian immigrants and exiles (along with individuals from other Caribbean nations) located in Miami Dade County. The neighborhood has a population of 28,000 people, with 73 percent identifying as Black and 20 percent as Hispanic. Forty-one percent of the neighborhood's residents were born outside the United States. As a whole, Miami Dade County is home to the largest population of Haitians in the nation.

Originally called Lemon City, Little Haiti was settled shortly after the Civil War by homesteaders. Haitians began arriving to the area in droves in the 1960s and 70s, fleeing the brutal dictatorship of ...

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