Friday, February 17, 2023

Book Review: We Are A Haunting by Tyriek White


The smallness of the present: the beat before you say a word. The quiet between breathing in and breathing out. That is as large as any turning point in history.

Three persons from three generations of a family of East New Yorkers has a unique ability to speak with the dead. In a thirty year spanning story about the struggles against angst, disdain and systemic neglect, they try to connect with their history. Audrey is on the verge of losing her housing. Her daughter Key, a practicing doula who uses her ability to connect to the dead and talk for them, loses to cancer. Her son Colly recognises his ability after this and gets the support of Key to navigate his life.

We Are A Haunting is the debut novel of Tyriek White. He attempts to weave a coming of age plot married with social critique with elements of magical realism thrown in. Magical realism is very effective in the hands of expert writers. Stalwarts like Marquez and Rushdie uses magical realism to enhance the ability of readers in comprehending the reality. When tried by lesser writers, it gets limited to a gimmick. The supernatural themes of this novel fails to complement the historic underlining of the plot or the systemic disparity faced by the characters.

The plot is non linear, running back and forth in time between three main characters. Chapters from the POV of Audrey is in third person, that of Key is in first person and that of Colly is a mixture of first and second person, the latter one addressing the dead mother. This structure is the saving grace of the novel as the gradual unfolding of events from different perspectives and from different time periods makes it interesting. Another important factor to note is the cyclic nature of events that subtly suggest that these characters are in fact thrust in a loop of similar events occurring repeatedly to them.

My biggest issue with the novel is the narration itself. Even when different chapters are narrated by different characters, there is no variation in their voices. And that common voice that narrates the whole story is very monotonous. The author tries to bring a very poetic and lyrical quality to his prose. He succeeded in the attempt by sacrificing the tightness of the plot. I never felt the impact on any characters of many life changing events that happens on the course of the story. I feel the main culprit is the obesity of the prose.

As a debut novel, We Are A Haunting provides an interesting plot that deserves a reading, but be prepared to endure a monotonous experience.

Received this eBook from Netgalley for an honest feedback.

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