Cover Image: If I Survive You

If I Survive You

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Multiple stories interweaving about a Jamaican family and how each member's experiences of racism, classism, life in Miami differ, especially from generation to generation. Extremely readable. 4 stars!

Was this review helpful?

I saw an interview with the author and was very excited to read this! However, I just couldn't get into it. It felt repetitive and didn't grab my attention. I'll try it again because it's been getting so much good press!

Was this review helpful?

Am I Black or White? Where do I belong? The linked short stories in Escoffery’s debut novel deal with these questions and others through the stories of a Jamaican family in Florida. Mainly written in a patois, the dialect is difficult until you get used to it.

Was this review helpful?

I really loved the shifting point of view to give you the full perspective of the family. The families story of dysfunction and struggles is depressing but balanced with humor as well. It felt like a very authentic immigrant story.

Was this review helpful?

This family history is beautifully crafted and heartbreaking. It follows Trelawny and his family as they struggle to find their way as immigrants in America while searching for their own meaning and self identity and working through generational trauma.

Was this review helpful?

This book centers on Trelawny, a young man who struggles with his identity and his family, particularly his parents who are immigrants from Jamaica. Switching between the point of views of his father, his brother, his cousin, and more, these interlocking short stories are always interesting, even though sometimes I wish it stayed with Trelawny a bit more.

Was this review helpful?

The structure of this book is formatted from two perspectives father and son. The dynamics between them and the environments in which each story unfolds was written so well. While the stories are separated the book does read like a novel. It was hard to initially get into but after finding the voice of the author the flow was easier and enjoyed reading.

Was this review helpful?

Book Review
If I Survive You
By Jonathon Escoffery
Published: September 2022
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thank you to NetGalley for my digital copy for review. I also listened to the audio version on Scribd. All opinions are my own.

"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 the 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, 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."

I liked the diversity in this book. It asked some tough questions and looked at the struggles of an immigrant family, both generations, as well as belonging and what it means to be black and Jamaican. Overall, this wasn't my favorite book, but I did appreciate that it was different from what I would normally read. Personally, though, the sexual content was a bit much for me. Additionally, when it came to the audiobook, I loved the genuine Jamaican accent. It added such a lovely element. If you are looking for a unique read, check this one out.

#reviews #ifisurviveyou #netgalley #netgalleyreviews #Jamaica #immigrants #fiction #colorful #kitty #catsofinstagram #reviewsofinstagram

Was this review helpful?

This has been on my radar for a while and I was happy to win a copy in a giveaway. I wanted to get to it when I was reading the NBA books, but didn’t, but luckily it’s now on the Aspen Words longlist which gave me an extra reason to prioritize it. Overall, I found some stories in here to be very strong, while others weren’t quite as engaging. I thought the first few stories were the strongest and I also really liked the last story.

I found the structure of this book very interesting! It is a linked collection, mostly focusing on Trelawny, the younger son of a family who are immigrants from Jamaica. It feels almost like a novel, since most of the story follows Trelawny, but there are stories from the perspective of his dad, brother, and cousin. Though not all stories were equally compelling to me, I thought it did work to have some glimpses into different characters’ lives, especially getting his dad’s backstory. Occasionally, I did want to stick more with Trelawny, though.

These stories explore the experience in America of immigrants from Jamaica and figuring out their identity in the US. The story took place in Miami and the setting felt well-written, though I don’t know it personally. Hurricanes in some way framed parts of the story, which feels authentic to recent Florida weather. I thought the character writing and place writing were both strong in general. I also especially loved the first story, “In Flux.” That one had such a stellar character voice and gave me a lot to think about regarding the idea of race in the US vs. in Jamaica, and the obsession with being able to categorize people, as shown by the many people wanting to know “what Trelawny was” and be able to categorize him as Black or not.

While I didn’t love every story, I still really liked this collection and enjoyed most of the read. There are a few stories in here that I would like to reread sometime (maybe for a future Short Story Friday). Escoffery is a great writer and I definitely want to see what he does next! If you’ve read this, let me know your thoughts!

Was this review helpful?

The short story collection by Escoffery has its highs and lows. The standout piece, 'Under The Ackee Tree,' is an award-winning story that covers a lifetime and is written in Jamaican patois. However, the rest of the collection does not measure up. While there are other interesting stories, the main character is difficult to relate to and the overall tone is uneven. Despite this, I am still a fan of Escoffery's work and look forward to seeing what he writes in the future.

Was this review helpful?

What an awesome book. So original. Its short stories but all the stories flow from one to another, though each could easily stand on its own.

Absolutely loved this.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you to NetGalley and FSG for the e-book! If I Survive You is a collection of connected short stories that follow a Jamaican family living in Miami as they navigate identity, racism and class. The first story, from Trelawny’s point of view, immediately drew me in as he speaks about his experience with how the world’s perception of him has made him question his racial identity. From that point on, I wanted so much more of Trelawny’s experience and development throughout the story. While I appreciated the connected short story format, I feel like Trelawny’s character development got cut short by the disjointed timeline and the shifted focus to his other family members and side characters. Aside from that, Escoffery‘s writing is deeply realistic and I am definitely interested to read more from him in the future.

Was this review helpful?

3.5, rounded down. A family saga fragmented into eight short stories of highly variable quality, each taking the perspective of a male family member. Trelawny is the second son of immigrant Jamaican parents, racially ambiguous in a society fixated on binary categories, growing up working-class in the outer Miami suburbs.. Escoffery is a talented writer, and creates vivid and realistic characters who are thoughtless and self-destructive, and believably fraught father-son relationships. The strongest of these are truly excellent: shocking, ironic, beautifully observed; especially the first, "In Flux," and and the last, "If I Survive You."

Was this review helpful?

In linked stories, J. Escoffery explores the lives of Jamaican American men (primarily the main character, Trelawney, and his brother and father) over decades–particularly the ways they influence, hurt, and survive each other. The writing is assured, skillful, and empathetic–and always sharply observant, often creating humor through its very particular delineation of the complexities of identity, race, and history.

In the opening story, young Trelawnery is asked “What are you?” Over the years, his effort to answer this question takes him through his mother’s complicated explanations of ancestors from different countries, falling in with a Puerto Rican group (until they determine he can’t speak Spanish and in fact, is Black), reinventing himself as Jamaican, and later as Black–and all the many ways he is seen and labeled, and all the many ways the question of identity echoes through his life.

The next story expands the scope of the book with his father’s story–from his younger days in Jamaica, his decision to leave in the wake of increasing violence, and his conflicted relationships with his sons.

It’s hard to do justice to this collection–and hard to truly summarize it in a review–because what it does is continuously go against the grain of easy assumptions, prepackaged narratives of identity, and even familiar situations.

In one story, Trelawney responds to an ad from a young woman who wants to be punched in the face (but not by a Black man). In another, he lives out of his car while chasing down residents in a federally subsidized senior home and looking for information that justifies rent increases. In a story that is both madcap and tragic, his brother Delano maneuvers with great creativity (against in incoming hurricane) to do one last hail-Mary job to save his tree-servicing company. Echoing through all of this are the effects of racism, colonialism, capitalism, definitions of masculinity, global warming, and family trauma.

IF I SURVIVE YOU is a beautifully rendered portrait–expansive and complex and refreshingly original–of men who are surviving and always attempting to thrive.

Was this review helpful?

I wanted to enjoy this but was overly unimpressed with the relationships, the dynamic, and the plot felt convoluted.

Was this review helpful?

This is a series of short stories that has all of the same characters but from their individual perspectives. They are an immigrant Jamaican family trying to find their way in America. Trelawny is the only American born family member. There is abandonment, sibling rivalry, racism and the question of where one fits not only within the family dynamic but also in society. Segments of the storytelling where the Jamaican dialect is presented were difficult to understand. An interesting approach to storytelling.

Was this review helpful?

The world building in these short stories is extraordinary. The sensual details are so richly developed and you can be easily consumed. However, the characters are extremely trying, which I suppose is relatable to real life but can make for a frustrating reading experience. I sympathized a bit with Trelawney and the story of his cousin was a great one. I look forward to more of Escoffery's writing.

Was this review helpful?

𝙈𝙮 𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙜: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (4 stars)

𝙈𝙮 𝙩𝙝𝙤𝙪𝙜𝙝𝙩𝙨:

How do I even describe this book?

It’s a series of interconnected short stories, but it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like a memoir told by several different people. It feels like a novel. It was hilarious, and sad, and sometimes anger inducing.

This is not my usual genre, or a format I’ve ever read before, but I’m glad I picked it up. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Thank you to NetGalley, Penguin Random House, McClelland and Stewart and Jonathan Escoffery for the advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

If I Survive You is available now.

Was this review helpful?

As others have said, this is more a series of intertwined short stories than a novel. But also, each story advances the overall, so you get a broad picture of a family over a long period of time. I can't say that I liked every story, and I certainly didn't like every decision these people made, but I was fascinated by them throughout the whole reading experience. My eyes were opened to lifestyles, cultures, and places that I knew very little about, so I appreciated the perspective. This is a unique book that I'll be thinking about for some time to come.

This is a book I probably wouldn't have read normally, so I'd like to say thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the advanced copy. I read this because of the gifted copy and am very glad for the experience.

Was this review helpful?

It was a lovely concept for all of the stories to intertwine. It was about a Jamacian-American family and the struggles they went through as life. I connected with some stories, while others I thought was very hard to get into. Overall I like the book. Thank you for the ARC.

Was this review helpful?