Everything Inside (Pantheon) is a haunting, profound collection by Edwidge Danticat—an answered prayer for those who have long treasured her essential contributions to the Caribbean literary canon ... With little introduction, we drop into people’s lives midcrisis, just as they’re confronting choices from which there’s no turning back; these 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.
Richly idiosyncratic characters and acts of tortured intimacy abound in Edwidge Danticat’s spellbinding new collection ... The curt, glittering poetry of Danticat’s 1996 short story collection Krik? Krak! has evolved in Everything Inside to a newly sober mode of storytelling that, for the most part, eschews the breathtaking in favor of the intensely personal and irredeemably particular. The relative simple premises in Krik? Krak! give way to reticulated plots stamped with so many amply realized characters that it seems a miracle when Danticat manages to wring coherence from their interweavings. Gone are the fervent accretions of metaphor, the airy style, and the mythic quality that typified her early work; in their place, Danticat doles out prickly investigations of transnational identity that are thickened by circumstance and mucked up by globalization. The bountiful, heartrending stories are circumfused with the impossibilities, grand and small alike, of lives lived in two places. Danticat restlessly interrogates the longings of distance, the disjunctions of diasporic experience, and the unsteady palimpsests of emotions that dwell in her characters’ hearts ... Danticat’s stories are careful to elude any totalizing of the immigrant experience ... Danticat’s hand, bewitched by her own tremendous gifts of empathy, applies a balm that, in its belatedness, only underscores, once again, the private histories of fracture and scission that have gone before.
The stories in Everything Inside were published over a 12-year period, from 2006 to just last year. What brings them together, apart from the land and people of Haiti, which has dominated so much of this writer’s career, are Danticat’s precise yet emotionally charged prose and the way she has curated this slim volume, bringing its elements together to create a satisfying whole ... a beautiful book.
It's a stunning collection that features some of the best writing of Danticat's brilliant career ... Danticat perfectly captures the complications of grief and the feeling of mourning a person you never had a chance to love ... The collection's best story is also possibly the best of Danticat's career ... Danticat beautifully traces how the specter of death haunts families and how we reckon with losses that haven't yet occurred. 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 ... immensely rewarding.
... quietly devastating ... Through eight vivid stories, Danticat measures the fallibility of grace, and how, lovers, friends, parents, and even nations disappoint. She also reveals with stunning precision the myriad ways people disappoint, and the hard knowledge that shapes their path forward ... I don’t mean this in a cartoonishly plucky way — Danticat’s women, in particular, aren’t pollyannas blithely skipping between heartaches. They find the narrow spaces where they learn to live with difficult decisions ... With an unfaltering voice and evocative beauty, Danticat shows the uncelebrated resilience it takes to move toward something that, if it isn’t quite happiness, still burns brighter than sorrow.
These are not easy stories but neither are they as redolent of violence and despair as some of Danticat’s previous and powerful work. Instead, we are given the intimate daily life experiences of those who struggle on the margins in Little Haiti and those who also, although more privileged, still struggle for a sense of belonging ... Danticat’s writing is language stripped bare which lets her stories and characters breathe. There is a rising intensity in these stories from the first sentence of the first page that draws the reader in and demands we pay attention ... The grief and loss of homeland, past, and family is palpable, rising to a peak and then ebbing gracefully into a newfound sense of community at the end of the story ... This is a masterful collection, beautifully wrought and elegantly told.
Following The Art of Death (2017), a reflection on her mother’s passing and writing, Danticat focuses this haunting eight-story collection on, well, death ... Danticat once again urges readers out of comfort zones to bear witness to urgent topics—refugee crises, polarizing inequity, violence, disasters—and alchemizes sorrows and tragedies into opportunities for literary enlightenment.
To frame and manage the turmoil in her materials, Danticat employs a harnessed pace, unfussy syntax, and a temperate tone. One feels calmed and embraced by her consideration, even as her characters cope with precarity. Her empathic sensitivity is there from the outset, yet she evades sentimentality — because she proceeds with an instinctive understanding that the ones feeling empathy, the narrators of her stories, are never flattered by their own depth of feeling ... Danticat returns to the short story genre with a ripened patience, as if the long-haul caretaking of her energies for her award-winning nonfiction work seasoned her story writing.
...heart-rending ... Danticat creates a small, emotionally rich universe. Readers are sure to leave the story with a sense of bittersweet heaviness ... Though the stories are linked by themes of love, death, and family, each is distinctive, gripping, and memorable in its own right, creating a collection that highlights the acclaimed storyteller at her best.
... [a] powerful new short story collection ... The author was born in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, raised in Haiti and in Brooklyn, and has lived for years in Miami. Her own ties to Haiti are strong; it’s not only her frequent literary subject but a political cause ... Danticat has a gift for the intriguing first line, as in 'Dosas', this book’s first story: '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.' It’s even more complicated than it sounds ... The final story, 'Without Inspection', has another of those arresting first lines: 'It took Arnold six and a half seconds to fall five hundred feet.' During that instant, his life passes before our eyes ... Danticat gives us a warm portrait of the life Arnold and Darline make with her son, Paris — and she renders Arnold’s death even more heartbreaking by revealing how his undocumented status will shape it. But, she writes, 'There are loves that outlive lovers. Some version of these words had been his prayer as he fell.' Danticat’s luckiest wanderers find their heart’s home, wherever it may be.
[Danicat's] latest short-story collectiom returns to the root of her lifelong themes—displacement, nostalgia, love, loss, and death—with, perhaps, a more laser-focused and experienced (but not jaded) perspective. Her goal seems to be to show us what life’s like, what it’s really like, for people in flux between lands and loves, sometimes for decades, the ground they walk on as unstable as the tug of war between their 'heres' and 'theres,' the foreign feel of their days never really fully resolving ... Danticat writes the realities of dying to cross land, air, or water into a new place, of political persecution, violence, hunger, and dehumanization posing as mere discrimination ... Danticat also looks at the nuanced scenario of heartbreak unspoken caused by nonchoices such as worrying about a child left behind versus living with the guilt of one half-killed at sea.
... eight soulful stories ... These stories turn on secrets, betrayal and accidents, but never feel melodramatic; traumas shake even ordinary lives ... Danticat’s characters give, they love, they agree to requests it would be wiser to refuse: They are relentlessly all-in. By drawing the reader deep into her characters’ psyches, Danticat makes us complicit in their bad moves ... We’re all terminal cases, Danticat’s lush stories suggest, but that doesn’t mean that any of us are unworthy of love.
These topics are especially poignant given the state of immigration opportunities in the United States at present. Faced with increasing ICE raids and brutal familial separation tactics, these still-hopeful settlers share a commonality with Danticat’s characters; the oft-deflated expectation that life must be better somewhere else ... vibrant and hauntingly human.
One hallmark of [Danicat's] mastery of prose is a gift for juxtaposition, the way she coaxes beauty from pain. Like one of her most famous characters, a Duvalier-era torturer known as the Dew Breaker, she soothes, then wounds with words, nudging the expectancy of pregnancy against the defeat of dying ... If a few of the stories feel distant, this is not the case for the powerful final piece, 'Without Inspection,' in which Everything Inside’s existence-precedes-essence philosophy plays out literally ... Each of the eight stories in Everything Inside is tragic in its own way. The last two stories are the strongest, the best showcases for Danticat’s talent, but the finale, 'Without Inspection,' brought me to tears.
[Danicat] is very much in control of her deft structures that often introduce the main action early in each tale ... a book about personal relationships and the world that intervenes. By introducing us to characters who have lived through dictatorships, the devastating Haitian earthquake of 2010, the United States’ restrictive immigration laws, or who are merely tourists hearing about another’s past, Danticat reminds us of the lasting effects of these events on all of our interactions ... Good historians like Danticat illustrate the importance of learning from our past and one another.
There are few if any unexpected plot twists; the reader follows the characters as they find their ways through and around obstacles in their lives. Danticat’s stories draw portraits of resilient people surviving in a turbulent world ... Some of the stories in Everything Inside require no cultural seasoning to leave an impact upon the reader. Others bear a distinct Haitian savor, yet not in a way that those unfamiliar with Haitian culture will find distant or inaccessible ... Danticat sprinkles bits of Haitian language, customs, and traditions into her stories the same way an experienced cook uses spices to give a dish its distinctive regional character. Her stories have universal appeal, but with a distinctly Haitian flavor ... Readers unfamiliar with Danticat will find this short book an appealing introduction to her writing. Those who have enjoyed her previous novels and short stories will see her most recent publication as a welcome addition to her growing body of work.
In her first collection of short stories in more than a decade, Danticat tackles the complexities of diaspora with lyrical grace ... This collection draws on Danticat's exceptional strengths as a storyteller to examine how migration to and from the Caribbean shapes her characters ... These are stories of lives upended by tragedies big and small, from political coups to closely guarded maternal secrets ... An extraordinary career milestone: spare, evocative, and moving.
Families fracture and reform in Danticat’s outstanding and deeply memorable story collection ... In plain, propulsive prose, and with great compassion, Danticat writes both of her characters’ losses and of their determination to continue[.]