Fresh, biting, laugh out loud funny, chilling, relatable and brazen! A debut collection that you won’t soon forget!
If I Survive You is a collection of interconnected short stories told from a Jamaican family living in Miami. While it is a collection of short stories, it does read like a novel because each story connects and move the plot along, while being told from the point of view of different family members.
We meet Christopher (Topper) and Sanya, both were born and grew up in Jamaica in the 1950s, they met and fell in love but with the political turmoil they moved to Miami with their son Delano and end up having another son- Trelawny while in Miami. With a loan from his father, Topper opens a landscaping business, business begins to boom after Hurricane Andrew but not enough to combat the recession. The family topples over when Topper heads to Jamaica after the death of his parents and in a moment of weakness- make a decision that impacts his family greatly. Topper and Sanya separates, Sanya gets Trelawny and Topper ends up with Delano. With the family falling out, we see how this impacts each member uniquely…. But also, this book is so much more than that.
We meet Trelawny who is constantly having an identity crisis- he doesn’t look or sound Jamaican, he looks Dominican but cannot speak Spanish and Black people don’t know which box to put him in. He doesn’t understand his Jamaican father and wishes he could call the island home. Delano is his father’s son- he decides to skip University and with a loan from his father he opens a business but while he got a strong start in life, ended up with a wife and two children- with the second recession will he end up like his dad? Sanya decides she is done taking care of men and wants to live her life now. Topper, isn’t sure what is next for him but he still wants to find for his marriage.
We meet characters who are going through it. I think what I enjoyed most about this book is the writing. I am blown away at how distinct each POV is- it is unmistakable who is narrating their chapter because of the writing and storytelling. There were moments when I literally was laughing out loud- and being insanely sad because it feels as if each character just cyan ketch a little break.
I think at the heart of this book is the humanity, each character wants to be better, to be change, to have a better way but they are living in a country that is not for them and it feels the deck is always stacked against them. We meet a father who failed, who is fathering a son he doesn’t recognize or cannot seem to read. We meet a son who constantly struggles to fit in, to know he is and what is his place in the world.
I am not going to lie- Topper must be the most hilarious character I’ve read in a long time. The man had the HOWLING with his one liner. If you loved Mr. Loverman and the main character then you are going to eat Topper up. He may not be as loveable as Barrington but one thing is for sure, he is HILARIOUS.
This book is written with so much heart, it is nuanced, fresh, engaging and offers so much food for thought. I want everyone to read this book. If you loved How To Love A Jamaican or Frying Plantain
Please watch out for this truly amazing debut novel- I could not get enough of it!