I’m torn. On the one hand, this is a marvelous story, filled with tension, beautiful language, an exotic setting, and resounding symbolism (the meaning of “ghosts” for example). On the other hand, it seems a bit overwrought. Or maybe that's just me, reading too much of a political message into a story that happens to be set in a Haitian slum inhabited by an underclass that is oppressed by a corrupt ruling class. I'm inclined to accept that the setting is just that.
The story is of Pascal, a young man whose parents run a restaurant in a neighborhood that for Haiti isn’t too bad, but that has become overrun by gangs. The story does a wonderful job of putting the neighborhood and the gangs and the family in context, so that the action of the story flows seamlessly from the given setting. The restaurant, naturally, has gang members as customers, and so Pascal comes to know them. When the gang commits a crime, Pascal is implicated as the mastermind. Extracting him from the mess that this causes provides the story’s climax, and the story’s real turning point comes at the very end, as Pascal and the gang’s leader meet. It is a chilling moment.
This story is going onto my top-ten list. I’d love to hear what other people think.
November 24, 2008: “Ghosts” by Edwidge Danticat