Fleeing to Miami after political violence consumes their native Kingston, a younger son of a Jamaican family, Trelawny, struggles to carve out a place for himself amid financial disaster, racism and flat-out bad luck, clawing himself out of homelessness with a series of odd, often hilarious jobs. 100,000 first printing. - (Baker & Taylor)
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2022 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FOR FICTION. NATIONAL BESTSELLER.
"If I Survive You is a collection of connected short stories that reads like a novel, that reads like real life, that reads like fiction written at the highest level." —Ann Patchett • "Kaleidoscopic, urgent, hilarious, revelatory and like nothing you've read before." —Marlon James • "A ravishing debut." —The New Yorker
Named one of the best books of 2022 by The New Yorker, TIME, and Kirkus. Finalist for the Southern Book Prize and the CALIBA Golden Poppy Award. Longlisted for the 2023 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction. Belletrist's September pick. A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice, a September 2022 IndieNext Pick, and named a Best Book of September by Amazon and Apple Books.
A major debut, blazing with style and heart, that follows a Jamaican family striving for more in Miami, and introduces a generational storyteller.
In the 1970s, Topper and Sanya flee to Miami as political violence consumes their native Kingston. But America, as the couple and their two children learn, is far from the promised land. Excluded from society as Black immigrants, the family pushes on through Hurricane Andrew and later the 2008 recession, living in a house so cursed that the pet fish launches itself out of its own tank rather than stay. But even as things fall apart, the family remains motivated, often to its own detriment, by what their younger son, Trelawny, calls “the exquisite, racking compulsion to survive.”
Masterfully constructed with heart and humor, the linked stories in Jonathan Escoffery’s If I Survive You center on Trelawny as he struggles to carve out a place for himself amid financial disaster, racism, and flat-out bad luck. After a fight with Topper—himself reckoning with his failures as a parent and his longing for Jamaica—Trelawny claws his way out of homelessness through a series of odd, often hilarious jobs. Meanwhile, his brother, Delano, attempts a disastrous cash grab to get his kids back, and his cousin, Cukie, looks for a father who doesn’t want to be found. As each character searches for a foothold, they never forget the profound danger of climbing without a safety net.
Pulsing with vibrant lyricism and inimitable style, sly commentary and contagious laughter, Escoffery’s debut unravels what it means to be in between homes and cultures in a world at the mercy of capitalism and whiteness. With If I Survive You, Escoffery announces himself as a prodigious storyteller in a class of his own, a chronicler of American life at its most gruesome and hopeful.
- (Macmillan School
Publishers Weekly Reviews
Escoffery's vibrant and varied debut, a linked collection, chronicles the turbulent fate of a Jamaican American family in Miami. Trelawny, the main character in most of the entries, is the younger of two sons. He questions where his light skin places him within America's racial categories and where he fits into family hierarchy: "You want to prove your father bet on the wrong son," Trelawny narrates in the title story, addressing his father's favorable treatment of his older brother, Delano, an arborist and musician. "In Flux" recounts Trelawny's liberal arts education as he leaves Miami and attends college in the colder, and more racially homogenous, Midwest. "Odd Jobs," "Independent Living," and the title story center on the strange and ethically dubious gigs Trelawny takes to survive, including a running stint as a voyeur for a rich Miami couple, asking himself all the while: "What kind of employee are you? And just what kind of man?" Two stories exert a thrilling dramatic pull: In "Splashdown," Trelawny's cousin Cukie learns the lobster trapping trade, and something darker, from his estranged father; and "If He Suspected He'd Get Someone Killed..." follows Delano rushing to secure a bucket truck and a tree-trimming contract before a dangerous storm arrives. This charged work keeps a tight hold on the reader. (Sept.)Correction: Due to an editing error, this review originally published without its star.
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