Friday 18 December 2020

Review by Laura Besley of "Everything Inside" by Edwidge Danticat

          On the other side of the door was the same kind of sticker, with the NOTHING
          scratched out by hand and replaced with EVERYTHING, so that the altered sticker read
          EVERYTHING INSIDE IS WORTH DYING FOR. Next to that was another black-and-
          white sticker that read YOU LOOT, WE SHOOT.
- Edwidge Danticat, Everything Inside

Everything Inside is a short story collection by prize-winning Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat. Each of the eight stories explores the idea of belonging and how, or if, it is possible to achieve this when no longer living in your homeland. 

Danticat is a master of the opening sentence. None is greater than this one, which in a single sentence of 24 words, sets up the entire first story, "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."

Each story – varying in length from 18 to 39 pages – is daring in subject matter, creating a sense of danger and ramping up the pace. And even when the situation is more every day, for example in "Sunrise, Sunset," which is about dementia and the challenges of motherhood, this supposedly normal situation within a normal family is pushed to the very outer limits of possibility. 

All the stories are about the idea of home and whether we can truly feel at home anywhere. In "Seven Stories," two childhood friends meet again as adults: “‘Home, sweet home,’ Callie said, trying to perhaps put [Kimberly] at ease.” Using this commonplace phrase to welcome her friend is underscored with the fact that this is Kimberley’s first time on Haiti, despite being of Haitian heritage, and everything feels strange and new. 

Every story in Everything Inside is deeply moving and only strengthened as being part of a collection which I would highly recommend.  

About the reviewer
Laura Besley writes short fiction in the precious moments that her children are asleep. Her fiction has appeared online, as well as in print and in various anthologies. Her flash fiction collection, The Almost Mothers, was published in March 2020. She tweets @laurabesley.

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