(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Krik? Krak! opens with the story “Children of the Sea,” which consists of an “exchange” of letters between two young lovers. Hauntingly, the letters are written, but never actually exchanged, because the young man is on a small boat with a group of people who are trying to escape Haiti, where they are wanted by the police for speaking out against the government. The reader learns at the end of the story that the young man is being forced to throw his letters overboard to make the boat lighter, because it has sprung a leak. The reader also suspects that the boat and its inhabitants will not survive this journey. For all its tragedy, this story has a tender side. In their writing, the young lovers reveal the depth of their feelings for each other, the unconditional love that the young woman’s parents have for her, and the young man’s commitment to justice despite its cost.

Many of the other stories in Krik? Krak! are similarly bittersweet. The prostitute in “Night Women” dreads the night, when her “suitors” come to visit. Yet, to protect her young son from the truth about her work, she invents magical stories about visiting angels to explain why she dresses up and puts on make-up at night when she is not planning to go out. “Nineteen Thirty-Seven” also transforms tragedy into tenderness. Josephine’s mother’s “crime” is purportedly being a witch and having the ability to fly. Josephine is devastated by her mother’s imprisonment, and she finds that she cannot talk when she visits her mother. When her mother dies, Josephine, nurtured by a friend, realizes that the mother-daughter bond is not broken even by death, and that she might one day be reunited with her mother.

The most complicated story in Krik? Krak! is “A Wall of Fire Rising,” in which Lili and Guy’s young son, a good student, is chosen for the lead role in a...

(The entire section is 773 words.)