Krik? Krak! contains nine stories and an epilogue. Although the stories take place in Port-au-Prince or Ville Rose, Haiti, or New York, they do not overlap. The only exception is “Between the Pool and the Gardenias,” which mentions women from earlier stories. All the stories are all about Haitian women trying to understand their relationships to their families and to Haiti. The epilogue, “Women Like Us,” suggests that these women are related. The epilogue’s unnamed narrator, possibly Danticat herself, notices her similarity to her mother and female ancestors. These women cook to express sorrow, but the narrator chooses to write. Her mother doesn’t approve because Haitian writers are often killed. However, the narrator’s female ancestors are united in death, and she uses stories to keep their history alive.
Two nameless narrators are in love and write each other letters they will never read. The female narrator is angry that her father opposes their love, but she finds out he gave up all his possessions to protect her from the macoutes. The female narrator’s family hears the macoutes kill her neighbor, whose son was in the Youth Federation. The male narrator, also a member, has fled Haiti. In his boat is a pregnant teenager, Célianne, who was raped by a macoute. Days after her baby dies, she throws it and herself overboard. The female narrator sees a black butterfly and knows the male narrator has died too.
“Nineteen Thirty-Seven” is narrated by Josephine, whose mother is imprisoned as a witch. Hours before Josephine’s birth, her mother swam across a blood-filled river to Haiti from the Dominican Republic, where Haitians were slaughtered, including Josephine’s grandmother. Every year, Josephine and her mother performed rituals at the Massacre River. When Josephine visits her increasingly frail mother, she never says anything, but she brings a Virgin Mary statue that her mother makes cry using wax and oil. When Josephine’s mother dies, Jacqueline, another ritual performer, takes Josephine to see her body burned.
Guy, Lili, and their son, Little Guy, live in a one-room shack. They get excited when Little Guy gets to play a revolutionary at school, and Guy gets extra work cleaning bathrooms at a plantation. Little Guy spends all his time learning lines while Guy dreams of stealing the plantation’s hot air balloon. Lili doesn’t approve, but one day she sees Guy flying the balloon. Guy captures the neighborhood’s attention and jumps out. Little Guy recites the lines from his play over Guy’s dead body.
“Night Women” concerns a prostitute who practices her profession next to her young, sleeping son’s bed. She tells him she gets made up before bedtime because she’s waiting for an angel to come. She worries he’ll someday find out the truth, especially as she sees him becoming older and more sexually aware. If he ever wakes to find her with one of her regular married men, she will tell him it’s his father, visiting for one night. When he asks about the angels, she tells him they haven’t come yet.
Marie finds a dead baby in the street. She names it Rose and tells it about her miscarriages, her cheating husband, and the Dominican pool-cleaner who slept with her once. Marie pretends the household where she works belongs to her and imagines her female ancestors visiting her. When the baby rots, she covers it with perfume, but she finally decides the flies are trapping Rose’s spirit and buries Rose by the gardenias. The Dominican calls the police, claiming Marie killed the baby for evil purposes.
Emilie Gallant, Lamort’s grandmother’s boarder, asks Lamort to take her secretly to a mass grave where Emilie’s mother, a supporter of the old government, may have been dumped. A soldier tries to stop Emilie, who defies him. Lamort says “peace,” a password given to her by a flirtatious soldier, but he appears and says the password has changed. Emilie tells Lamort she doesn’t have to please her grandmother. Lamort’s name means “death” because her mother died when she was born, but when she goes home she demands to be called Marie Magdalènene, her mother’s name.
Princesse passes a flirtatious drunk watching cockfights on her way to visit Catherine, a foreign painter. Princesse poses nude while Catherine paints and talks about art. Princesse feels uncomfortable at first, but as long as no one else can see her, she relaxes. Sometimes Catherine paints her outdoors, wearing clothes. When Catherine’s mentor dies, Catherine goes to Paris without telling Princesse. When she returns, she gives Princesses a nude painting of her by the ocean. Princesse is inspired to create art herself and sketches the cockfight-watching drunk in the sand.
“New York Day Women” takes place in New York rather than Haiti. Suzette spots her mother, who never leaves Brooklyn, in Midtown. As Suzette follows her mother, undetected, she thinks about the critical things her mother says about family or Haiti or Suzette. In a playground, a woman wearing workout clothes leaves her young son with Suzette’s mother for an hour. Suzette’s mother and the son seem quite fond of each other. Suzette wonders whether her mother would have said hello, had she seen her.
Grace’s mother (Ma) is upset that Grace’s sister, Caroline, is marrying Eric, who isn’t Haitian. Ma makes bone soup every day, which she believes will end Caroline’s engagement. Grace begins dreaming about her father, as she did when he died of cancer. In order to get a visa, Grace’s father married a widow, then divorced her to bring his real family to the United States. Ma worries that Caroline thinks no one but Eric will love her. Before the ceremony, Caroline becomes very nervous, but Ma reassures her. There is a heavy sadness over the family because they know Caroline will never again be as close to them as she has been all her life. Ma asks Grace to burn her belongings when she dies so no one will feel sorry for her. Grace refuses. She visits her father’s grave to tell him about the wedding and her new U.S. citizenship, and when she returns home, she helps her mother make bone soup.
Please check out the film adaptation of "Caroline's Wedding" based on the short story in "Krik?Krak!"
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