Ravishing ... The book, about an immigrant family struggling to make ends meet, delights in mocking the trope of an immigrant family struggling to make ends meet ... There’s peacocking humor, capers, and passages of shuddering eroticism. The book feels thrillingly free ... Escoffery’s protagonists, though resourceful, can’t accomplish the impossible; nor do they sacrifice themselves for the reader’s sentimental education ... The prose comes alive ... These characters are strange amalgams of limited agency and boundless originality. Their survival, perhaps, comes down to their style ... Escoffery deftly renders the disorienting effects of race as they fall, veil-like and hostile, over a world of children ... Throughout, the refrain runs like an incantation: What are you? Escoffery, hosing his characters in a stream of fines, bills, and pay stubs, studies the bleak math of self-determination.
Captivating ... While If I Survive You has a great sense of humor, it reflects little of the joy and pleasure that also define Miami — the food and music and dancing and art and flirtation that make life in the Magic City so thrilling and worthwhile ... Where Escoffery does reflect joy is in the book’s composition. Escoffery’s sentences push boundaries and create a symphony of language — breaking the rules of writing while showing his mastery of them. Each chapter takes on a different style, and readers may sense they were witnessing the emergence of a master stylist ... Still, while “f I Survive You dissects masculinity beautifully, it relegates its women to side characters ... Escoffery doesn’t let his characters off the hook, though ... If I Survive You is a lovely and complicated portrait of masculinity in one Jamaican-American family. Escoffery writes with great care and empathy for his main characters, and in doing so he reveals the richness of feeling that comes with the desire to run away.
The book moves backward and forward in time, immersing us in the muggy Miami atmosphere and the unresolved family tensions ... Given Escoffery’s skill in making me care for these characters, I wished at times that I was caught more forcefully in a current of narrative momentum with them, and some episodes...struck me as less than convincing. But the author is, throughout, a gifted, sure-footed storyteller, with a command of evocative language and perfectly chosen detail.