Cover Image: If I Survive You

If I Survive You

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Member Reviews

Fantastic collection of interconnected short stories about Trelawny, his Jamaican American family and Miami. The author does a remarkable job transporting the reader into these lives, allowing us to feel the struggles.

“Eventually, you’ll admit to yourself that you are tired. Tired of trying to convince anyone of anything, especially yourself.”

Race, family ties and obligations, what success means and how to live life are all issues this collection covers. Highly recommend to readers who enjoy thoughtful diverse fiction and short stories.

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Trelawney is a young Jamaican-American man growing up in Miami. These short stories explore how life shakes out for him in a country that proclaims that it is moving past its racist beginnings, but isn't quite as colorblind as we all like to think.

The book does look at racism from a view that doesn't seem to be as often discussed. The main character is mixed, looks kind of Hispanic, sounds white, but is essentially told that he's black, because of you have even a drop of African blood in you, you're black no matter what.

In all honesty, I think I am not the audience for this book. I've been trying to push through reading it for week over a month, and I just can't seem to get a good grasp on it for myself. I've gotten into 3 of the 8 stories, and one of them was difficult to get through due to being written almost entirely in the English dialect Jamaicans use, which meant that I lost the point of things on occasion.

I'm going to try pushing through to give a more accurate review in the future, but for now, I'm unfortunately putting it into my DNF pile.

I received an Advanced Reader Copy via NetGalley in return for sharing my thoughts on this book. Thanks to the author and publisher for this opportunity!

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I was exceedingly fortunate to receive an early review copy of this book. Escoffery's debut collection of linked short stories is an utterly unique glimpse into the world of Caribbean immigrants to America. The primary character, Trelawney, is the underdog you want to root for, that your heart breaks for as he struggles to find place and identity in a world that isn't always very kind. Escoffery's prose is truly stunning and a real joy to read. I found myself enjoying each sentence as much as I did each scene. I'm definitely looking forward to more books by this author.

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If I Survive You is the first of its kind book I've read, where a collection of interconnected short stories presents the narrative in a somewhat linear, somewhat meandering manner, and often told from a multiple perspectives, thereby allowing for a rich tapestry of story-telling, from a mix of personalities.

While I certainly liked the storytelling approach, and quite liked the terse and often wry humor peppered throughout, I couldn't relate at first to many of the actions and decisions and impulses of the main characters. I understand immigrant life, I'm a first-gen immigrant myself - but my gripe had nothing to do with that. It had more to do with what people consider important in their lives, and what they'd do to protect and preserve that.

Trelawny seems confused and lost, and often conflicted with what he has to do. He seems to know what's right and what's not quite, and yet can't get himself to do the right thing - fairly often. At first that irritated me a bit, but eventually I took that to be the intent of the writing, and in fact sort-of the moral of the story. Hence the title of the book. Eventually, I came around to appreciating both the writing style, as well as the story that was being told here.

Of late, a lot has begun to be said about how this country treats its immigrants, despite - ironically enough - nearly every single living citizen being a descendent of immigrants from at most only a handful of generations ago. But this book is not just about that. It is also about the unforced mistakes that people make, and how they squander away chances and second chances and then even third and fourth chances... before they even begin to fathom what it is they are throwing away, and by then it's too late.

What's interesting in this storytelling style is how you get to hear different perspectives of the same incident, and how it affects and is seen by different participants differently, showing the reader a nuanced look and feel of how things unfold - both real and perceived.

All in all, a richly told story, that's at times bleak and at other times almost equally hopeful.

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If I Survive You was an interesting book, set in a short story form. I liked the perspective of different characters, but it didn't ignite a spark for me. I think the beginning started out strong, but lagged a lot in the middle. While I appreciated the audiobook to hear the father's Jamaican patois properly, it was a bit hard to understand on audio. I stopped at 45%.

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Escoffery presents a fine collection of stories that revolve around a Jamaican family. Here we have tales about father/son relationships (or lack thereof), dreams, race, and get-rich-quick schemes.

There's a tragic feel to most of this, though there's plenty of humor to be found. I particularly liked this bit where Trelawny has received an offensive email from his boss at the school where he teaches. It seems as though the higher-ups are not pleased with his "natural" hairstyle.

"AAs?" Jelly says, when you stomp into the bedroom to show her Bob's email.

"Presumably? African Americans."

"Is he allowed to say 'naps'?"

"I'll consult my Black-guy handbook."

A great debut. I'll be looking forward to what this author creates next.

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At turns cruel and harsh, and tender and longing, this collection is a gut punch. It circles around race, home, family, masculinity, and the elusive, torturous American Dream; and all who are beat down as they try to reach it. Escoffery's prose is unforgettable.

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Race in the US could only be explained with the following: “In your fifth-grade history section, you learn more about the founding of America. You learn about the subject referred to simply as "slavery." It's an abbreviated, watered-down lesson, much like its subject heading. It's: Mostly good people made a big mistake. It's: That was a long, long time ago. It's: Honest Abe and Harriet Tubman and M.L.K. fixed all that nasty business. It's: Now we don't see race. An air of shared discomfort infiltrates the classroom during this lesson; the students agree this was a terrible event. You're mildly aware that some of your classmates are supposed to have descended from the perpetrators of this atrocity and that some descended from the victims. You're not quite aware that many descended from both. Should you feel slighted by this country you love so dearly?”

One Jamaican immigrant family. Considered brown in Jamaica, black in the US. Never questioned in Jamaica, always asked “what are you?” in the US. Girlfriends thought of you as a different flavor or why to drive their parents mad. Your college degree was a result of a diversity, inclusion effort. It is definitely a good reason not to feel belong even though one was born and raised in that country. So if he survives this, maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Having multigenerational voice, story was told as interconnected short stories to give a better perspective of main character and his father: use of language, experiences, nostalgia for different pasts. I think a lot of people would enjoy this book as it has all emotions all at once.

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Absolutely loved this collection of linked stories of sons and fathers who emigrated from Jamaica to Miami in the mid-late 20th century. The stories are, in many ways, devastating and raw, but there are also moments of hilarious shenanigans. The yearning for connection, the struggle to make ends meet, and the efforts to build the life you want are so relatable. Nothing about this life is coming easy to these characters, and there's something so isolating about how each one is trying to make it work but without any true support from family, friends, partners, or society.

This is a unique take on a short story collection, as the characters reappear throughout, just at different stages of life. So for folks who shy away from short story collections for the lack of continuity or wanting to go deeper into a character's story, this collection achieves that in really unique and compelling ways.

I will be haunted by some of these stories and characters for years to come. Escoffery really built a world and immersed me in it, even when I wanted to look away. Gorgeous debut.

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A collection of interwoven short stories following members of a Jamaican-American family as life unfolds around them. Some stories floored me (mainly Trelawny's), and some stories left me wanting more or left me feeling little at all. Ranging anywhere from 1.5-5 stars as individuals, I feel comfortable landing on 3 stars for this as a collection.

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4.5 stars

I am grateful to Farrar, Straus and Giroux for sending me an advanced copy of this book for review.

I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of short stories. This was a great example of someone really exploring the complexities of the Caribbean diaspora in America and I really thought it was expertly done. I enjoyed the structure of this book, looking at a family overtime in a non-linear fashion. This allowed us to explore both the Caribbean setting and the American setting to see how the lives of members in this family contrasted with each other, and how the existence of someone who straddles the line between two cultures can be quite tumultuous. The writing style was very clean, and the use of patois and Caribbean colloquial English enhanced the power of the storytelling.

I like that this book focused on the very important theme of identity being dependent upon where you are located, and the society that you are immersed in . It also really pointed out the ways in which race relations within specific ethnic groups can be quite complicated and how that can be quite traumatic. I also liked the complexity of family relationships that were explored in this book, and how well developed and interesting all the characters were, not just our main perspective. I found many parts of this book to be quite sad, but there was a good quantity of humor that lightened the mood and made the reading experience enjoyable.

I am so grateful When I see books like this that explore the Caribbean and the diaspora without making it into and exercise on how much trauma can we layer on to one person in one story. I did find some portions of the book to be unnecessary and rambling, but that is my only critique and it did not hinder my overall enjoyment. This story was quite nuanced, and I feel like it would be a recognizable and intriguing story for Caribbean readers, for Caribbean diasporic readers, and for other readers I think it could provide some eye opening perspectives.

Thoroughly, thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed this one. I recommend it to readers of literary fiction, historical fiction, and cultural stories.

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I received a digital advance copy of If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery via NetGalley. If I Survive You was released on September 6, 2022.

If I Survive You is a collection of connected short stories following a family in Miami. The parents had relocated here from Kingston to escape political violence, only to land in a city that struggled to place a label on them. The stories focus on the youngest son, Trelawny, as he fights for both his place in society and in his own family.

The strength of this book are the characters and the themes. Trelawny is realistically messy. Through the novel he questions his identity, asking again and again what he is. His skin is brown, but he does not speak the language of the Puerto Ricans and Dominicans around him. His hair is kinky, but he is not dark enough to be black. The world around him struggles to place his identity, and so does he. To add to this challenge, his parents seem to have a strong preference for his older brother, which leads to Trelawny living in a vehicle rather than trying to claim a place in the homes of either of his parents. This feeling of being perpetually out of a place felt very real, and made Trelawny a very sympathetic character. We did get a couple of stories from other characters, which added to our view of Trelawny and gave us some depth for the individuals around him.

The plot of this book is very sprawly, as it is a collection of separate stories. While I could see the links between stories, as a whole, I felt at the end that the story was incomplete. Each of the short stories felt like chapters in a novel, and while Trelawny did change from start to finish, I didn’t get the sense that his arc was complete. I didn’t leave the book thinking that he had claimed his identity.

Overall, If I Survive You is a look into one man’s journey to find and own his identity. While I did find the story a bit incomplete, I enjoyed the peek into Trelawny’s messy quest.

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If I Survive You is a book made up of short stories about Trelawney, a son of Jamaican immigrants, living in Miami, and those close to him. The stories tell the struggles of black people in America in very unique ways.
I could relate to him in some ways because he graduated college during the Great Recession, and so did I. I certainly had empathy for the character.
Certain stories in this book were amusing, others sad, and some dragged. 3.5 stars rounded up.

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for a review.

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If I Survive You
This debut novel by Jonathan Escoffery is a collection of short stories that tell of the lives of an immigrant Jamaican family as they strive for survival in Miami, Florida. We meet Trelawny, the only American born family member and youngest son. His older brother is Delano and their parents are Topper and Sanya, who speak in the dialect known as Patois.

I connected with the stories involving Trelawny the most. As a young child he was asked questions by his school mates, such as “What are you?” “Why does your mother talk so funny?” He asks his mother if he’s black and gets an unsatisfactory answer. He ponders where he fits in such an ethnically diverse city.
He later attends a Midwest college were he most definitely is black, but in the eyes of the black folks, he looks and talks white.

When he returns home, he lives out of his Raider and takes on a series of dodgy jobs to make ends meet. He also has a complicated relationship with his brother and father, partly because he feels his father loves Delano more than him.

In an earlier story, his father is addressing Trawlany using mostly Partois so I did struggled a bit with the meaning. I looked up some words; pickney means child, yardies is slang for Jamaican diaspora, and overproof is a strong rum. I appreciated the authenticity here.

Escoffery has a unique style of storytelling. I wonder why he chose to use short stories and multiple narrators rather than a more linear approach. Regardless, it’s a beautiful story of relationships and belonging in America that takes on a humorous tone.

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This debut collection of short stories that weaves together the lives of Jamaican Immigrants trying to find home and belonging in America is a compelling read. There are well-drawn characters who as a reader you end up caring about as we learn about their struggles to fit in, get by, and survive. It is a story of family and in particular fathers and sons and rivalry between brothers. Each story packs a punch and could be read on its own but are made richer because the same characters show up throughout. The writing is beautiful and I believe authentically portrays the experience of those who feel "othered" or being told who they are or their history based on assumptions and appearances. I recommend these short stories.

Thank you to Netgalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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In one of the most exciting debuts this year, Jonathan Escoffery presents If I Survive You. Hailed by writers of renown from Ann Patchett and Marlon James, to Nana Kwame Adjei Brenyah this book blends and exhibits a variety of stylistic traits and themes while maintaining integrity as a unique contribution to the literary arts.

The central themes and purpose of If I Survive You unfold as a series of related short stories, as if hearing the reminiscent stories told among a family. There are moments of hope and courage, despite the overwhelming challenges that each character encounters throughout the book.

Trelawney and Delano reflect various instances of having to fight for survival, countered by other benefits that seem to come to them as if by destiny. The complete arc of this collection reflects an experience of immigrants fleeing their home country to discover life in the US to be both a blessing and a curse, depending on the day, the circumstance, the social order.

If I Survive You is a book of outstanding literary merit and thematic brilliance. One that I picked up for the beautiful cover art but found myself immediately immersed in the storytelling of this wonderful author.

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These linked short stories explore the lives of a family of the Jamaican diaspora who each search for identity and belonging in their own ways. The stories are beautiful and emotional but sometimes lose focus or get bogged down in minutia. However, despite the occasional lack of verbal economy, there is a lot to love here. In Flux is probably the best story of the set with Odd Jobs and Splashdown close seconds. If there is one criticism of this collection is that it doesn’t resolve in any sort of satisfying way. It feels like it kind of ends without fully articulating the thematic point.

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If I Survive You is a related collection of short stories centering around American-born Trelawny and his Jamaican immigrant family as they navigate the unwritten intricacies of life in the US. Story narration is from the multiple points of view of Trelawny and his relatives, giving a multi-faceted perspective on race, university life, Jamaican politics, complicated family connections, and a host of other life frustrations. Trelawny and his family persevere in the face of a broken system and the often unexpected situations they find themselves in.

Being American-born in an otherwise native Jamaican family isolates Trelawny in ways his father and older brother don’t understand. A lack of acceptance from his peers stemming from their inability to categorize him makes social connections precarious at best. When Trewlany eventually gives in to their confounding ignorance and their need to put him in a box by becoming what others see in him, he suppresses his authentic self to no significant benefit. Ultimately he is still an outsider almost everywhere he goes, including in his own home.

When Trelawny’s father, brother, and other family members have their moments in the narrative, a bigger picture of the immigrant experience and the struggles inherent to this position in America emerges. It becomes apparent why despite the obstacles and disappointments they face in their adopted country, so much of the family is willing to stick it out. It also informs Trelawny’s disconnect with his immediate family due to his lack of personal knowledge of the Jamaican experience.

I found this story collection fascinating and thought-provoking. The sharp and honest writing with moments of humor makes for an eye-opening glimpse into how the narrow lens of racism alienates and marginalizes immigrants and people of color.

Give this one a read if you’re up for an engrossing own voices cultural family portrait and coming-of-age arc.

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<B>The Publisher Says</b>: 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.

<B>I RECEIVED A DRC FROM THE PUBLISHER VIA NETGALLEY. THANK YOU.

My Review</b>: When I think about braided-stories novels, there's always a little frisson of fear in my response. I don't always think it's the best idea to try to make a novel out of things that don't fit together naturally. If there's an organic flow among stories, what stops the author from making it into a regular novel-style novel? Why this technique, not another that doesn't make The Market shudder deep in its bones? All we ever hear is that stories are hard to sell, collections are death in the stores, writing stories is just as hard as writing novels but even less remunerative. I'm inured to this cant of can't by now. It's done its damage. I look askance at connected collections.

What, then, is the reason I decided to read this iteration of the story-novel? There's no one thing, there's a constellation of tweaks and trips. I find the idea of books others can't "understand" tempting. I am all for creative uses of the many kinds of English out there waiting to make my acquaintance. I'll walk a mile for a good story about people who just...can't...because they're my people. Because whatever else divides us, we have one thing in common: We don't Belong, and others do. That's worth a lot of effort...which, for the record, I did not think was needed in reading this book. The second story is in patwa but the rest? Not a bit of it.

It pleases me to use my time-honored technique called the Bryce Method to explicate the wonders herein to feast upon at Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud.

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This review is based on an ARC kindly provided by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Topper, Sanya and their two children Trelawny and Delano flee their increasingly violent hometown of Kingston to search for a safer, and better, life in Miami.
They soon realize that the reality of their new homeland is quite different from what they dreamed of.

The story is told through eight separate but connected shorter stories that combined tells the story of racism, the search for identity and the wish to belong.
Most of the stories are told through different people that in some degree belong or are connected to the family at the center of this story.

In the first part “In flux” is a elegantly written power house of a journey through Trelawny’s experience being caught in between, between skin colors, ethnicity, between countries and between cultures.
It’s a manifesto of loneliness, desperation, racism and unfairness that grabs a hold of you an hooks you into the story.

The next part is told by Trelawny’s father and the seismic shift in tone and perspective that suddenly happens with this new narrator is a powerful depiction of the was gap that can occur between generations, especially generations that grow up in vastly different countries and cultures.

In addition to Trelawny and his family’s at times ruthless struggle to survive, his search for his own identity and a place to belong and thrive in a new country, this is also a story of a cursed house, betrayal and love.
It’s a story of a person trying to figure out who he is in a society obsessed with labels.
Is he black? Is he Hispanic? Being mixed is not the straightforward answer people want.

The writing in this book is astonishing, the story gripping and the shifting perspectives keeps you completely hooked throughout as well as making you curious about what will happen next.
Even though this is a dire tale at times, it’s also written with lots of humor, mostly of the darker kind.
It’s a powerful story that I highly recommend reading.

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