Caroline's Wedding

by Edwidge Danticat

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Critical Overview

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When Danticat’s short story collection Krik? Krak! was published in 1995, it cemented the reputation that Danticat had begun to build with her earlier debut novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994). The collection was nominated for a National Book Award and was warmly received by critics, who welcomed Danticat’s humanizing of Haiti, a country that had been largely ignored by writers and artists and that had mainly been the subject of news reports focusing on political upheaval and violence. In her Boston Globe review, “Danticat’s Stories Pulse with Haitian Heartbeat,” Jordana Hart praises Danticat’s “honest and loving portraits of Haitian people” which have “smashed the numbing stereotypes created by a barrage of media accounts of Haitian poverty, misery and death.”

In an interview with Danticat for Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, Margaria Fichtner makes comments on Danticat’s novel Breath, Eyes, Memory that could easily be applied to Krik? Krak! Fichtner notes the novel’s emotional complexity and its portrayal of the burdens of history, politics, and culture upon the lives and hearts of women, adding that it has “much to say about what it is like to be young, black, Haitian and female wandering in a world too often eager to regard all of those conditions as less than worthwhile.” Fichtner calls Krik? Krak! “a collection of interrelated stories celebrating Haitian home life, tradition and myth and the ennobled lives of people who have lost everything but a rich will to survive.”

In his review of Krik? Krak! for World Literature Today, Hal Wylie singles out “Caroline’s Wedding” for particular praise, on the grounds that this story is “the most penetrating in exploring the psychology of assimilation.” Wylie notes that the Haitian stories featured within the story help the characters “in finding the essential values of life—the foundation for a character able to resist life’s traumas.” The story of Caroline’s wedding, he writes, “shows the relationship of family stories to the larger social rituals, also important in people’s finding their way in the urban labyrinth.”

In her review entitled “Stories Resound with Haiti’s Tragedy, Spirit,” for the San Francisco Chronicle, Wendy Sheanin also notes the “legacy of pain” carried by each member of Grace’s family. Against this legacy, Sheanin writes, the stories demonstrate “the healing and affirming power of storytelling,” in the sense that stories “provide spiritual sustenance, whether they are told to escape harsh reality or to pass the time on board a doomed refugee boat or to fantasize about a better life.” Sheanin draws attention to the story cycle structure, whereby the interrelatedness of stories reinforces the sense of community among the scattered Haitian exiles. She praises Danticat’s “honesty, coupled with her wit and subtlety,” which combine to yield “powerful stories that remain with us long after we close the book.”

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Criticism