If I Survive You

MCD. Sept. 2022. 272p. ISBN 9780374605988. $27. F
DEBUT This compelling set of interrelated short stories all center on the experiences of a family that moved to Miami from Jamaica during the turbulent 1970s, with Escoffery (winner of the Paris Review’s 2020 Plimpton Prize for Fiction) offering unique insight into issues of race and belonging. The main narrator is Trelawny, whose questions about his Jamaican, U.S., and racial identities fuels the bulk of the work. In “Under the Ackee Tree,” written from the perspective of Trelawny’s domineering father, readers start to understand what made the father the flawed character that he is. Another story, told by older brother Delano, helps shed light on the complicated relationship between the two siblings. This relationship is further explored in the story “If I Survive You,” which illustrates the struggle between the brothers over the family home. The most dire story, “Splashdown,” features Trelawny’s cousin Cukie, who’s working to get his life together but becomes a victim of abjectly cruel circumstances. It’s heartbreaking.
VERDICT A revelatory work, full of a young man’s questioning and told in a distinctive voice, this contemplation of identity, culture, and race in the United States today is highly recommended.
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