Books: Best of 2013

Ellen Gallagher

Tell me, dear beauty of the dusk,

When purple ribbons bind the hill,

Do dreams your secret wish fulfill,

Do prayers, like kernels from the husk

Come from your lips? Tell me if when

The mountains loom at night, giant shades

Of softer shadow, swift like blades

Of grass seeds come to flower. Then

Tell me if the night winds bend

Them towards me . . .

—Jean Toomer, “Tell Me”

Edwidge Danticat positions her novel Claire of the Sea Light (Knopf) across the span of a single day, the seventh birthday of its main character, Claire Limyè Lanmè Faustin. There is a sense of some gathering cataclysm as the day unfolds, narrated through the shifting perspective of events that unmoor the town of Ville Rose, Haiti. Family disasters are cupped within natural disasters, inseparable arcs: six movements hemmed by the day’s open and close, as if everything, including the past, has occurred within a

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