Cover Image: If I Survive You

If I Survive You

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Crisp engaging prose in every single story. I was drawn to Trelawny’s voice the most; who felt like the narrator with the most heart of this Jamaican family doing their best to be resilient. Despite hardships, a strong sense of humor rings through it all, The questions of identity and family are also so relatable.

Full review to be posted on Instagram and Goodreads.

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Jonathan Escoffery has written a book of short stories that are interconnected. The stories are based on a Jamaican family that has relocated to Miami Florida. These members of the family are trying to find their way in their new country.

There were definitely some of the stories that I found easier to read and enjoyed despite the hard topic. This was a book that I found to be informational in some ways since I live in a very non diverse area. The repeated question of "what are you?" I found to be really heartbreaking especially when Trelawney tried to answer this question but no one would agree with his answer.

3.5 stars rounded up to 4.

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts & opinions are my own.

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A collection of connected short stories about a Jamaican family in the United States about race and survival.

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The short stories that were meant to connect in this novel just didn’t do it for me. I had to go back and keep re-reading parts of the book. The characters were not well defined for me to keep track of who was who. I really had to struggle to finish this.

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I’ll start by saying that I really wanted to like this book and found the description and reviews as a sign of a great piece of writing. After I got to a certain point in the book though, I could tell that it wasn’t for me.

If I Survive You is made up of multiple short stories that follow the lives of four members of a Jamaican family living in Miami. I found it very difficult to follow the story at times because of the dialect and jargon spoken by the main characters, including an entire chapter early in the book. I pushed through despite considering a DNF because I wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt and while I did find some of the short stories later in the book to be interesting, I still didn’t feel a connection to the story and was reading mostly to see how the book would end.

I appreciated being able to read about a nationality I rarely, if ever, find in the books I read, and know that there are a lot of people with whom this story would resonate. Unfortunately I’m not one of those people.

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Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC of this book, in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This book is a collection of interconnected short stories, involving the experiences in the U.S. of various family members who have come to the U.S. from Jamaica. Trelawny, the main character, expresses the central question of the book in the first story - "what are you?" - the question he is repeatedly asked. Too black to be white, too white to be black, not hispanic - everyone is trying to assign him to a group. And, throughout the book, he's not really sure where he belongs.

And, to add to the ethnic/racial confusion, he doesn't really belong with his family, either. He's not really like his parents, brother, cousins, but he's not able to go ahead and make a separate, different, life for himself.

Another main theme running through this book, involving many of the characters, is the father-son relationships. They aren't very strong, but they complicate lives, especially the lives of the sons.

This book was well written, and intense. But, honestly, it was also pretty depressing. I did find it well worth reading, however.

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It was very difficult to maintain interest in this book-the synopsis was wonderful, the actual book no so much.

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I received this book as an ARC and this is my review. This story is totally consumed with racism and it’s causes and results. The characters are different nationalities and the point is driven home repeatedly: whatever your race, others are from other races and we look down on some of them just because race is an individual characteristic and we do not always understand each other. The setting is mostly in Florida and diversity is extreme. This book is a slice of prejudice and what happens when these beliefs are carried out.

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While I really enjoyed the stories written from Trelawny's voice, I found the other stories written so deeply in Patois that it was incredibly hard to read. I believe there are very important themes in this book and the stories need to be told, but it was a hard read and unenjoyable to do so.
Unfortunately, I would not recommend this book. I feel this book would have been amazing if the Patois was limited to when the characters were actually talking, and not their entire story. I understand it is voiced from their perspective, but it would have been more effective if it wasn't written like this.
Thank you to NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for the advance copy.

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If I Survive You is a collection of eight short stories that are interconnected, so this book reads like a more cohesive story than other short story collections. In these stories, themes of identity, poverty, and familial relationships are highlighted. Topper and Sanya grew up in Jamaica, but flee with their young son Delano to Miami in order to get away from the violence plaguing their home country. In America, they have a second son Trelawny who is the primary character in these stories. In his childhood, he frequently is asked "what are you"? He is Jamaican, but that is not an answer that his fellow classmates understand, and he does not fit in with white, hispanic, or black children. The book skips ahead in time and he finds himself homeless, living out of his car, and eventually working at a subsidized housing complex. He has strained relationships with his family. His brother Delano is the oldest son- the favorite son. Their father, Topper, sees Trelawny as foreign. as weird. as American. Escoffery does of really nice job of highlighting a family with complex connections.

Thank you to Farrar, Straus and Giroux via NetGalley for the advance reader copy in exchange for honest review.

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I was unable to finish this book and thus will not be posting a full review. I found the stories hard to connect although the writing was well done, at times. Thank you for your consideration

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Thank you for this opportunity but I’m afraid I can’t finish this book. It’s too hard to get into and sometimes it’s too hard to follow.

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I will admit to picking this book purely because of a recommendation from Ann Patchett. I also have enjoyed other interconnected story books, such as those written by Elizabeth Stout.
I am not the intended audience for this book. While I found certain parts of it interesting and enlightening, other parts just had me shaking my head.
The stories focus on Trelawny, a “multiculti” Jamaican American. No one can figure out what he is and so, he’s not really accepted by any group. But more importantly, because of his intelligence and manners, he’s not really accepted by his family. Other stories deal with his father, his cousin and his brother. It’s an interesting glimpse into immigrant life, the feeling of not having a real home, of family and parental favorites.
This wasn’t an easy book to read. And I don’t just mean the patois that his parents and brother speak. There are some really raw, weird scenes that I struggled to understand. Other chapters I found just lacking. Other reviews comment on its humor. I found it sad and depressing more than anything.
My thanks to Netgalley and Farrah, Strauss and Giroux for an advance copy of this book.

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I'm rating this with 4 stars because I'm positive it's going to be a knockout for some! The stories told in this book are raw, real and very eye opening. They range from when Trelawny is very young to and adult and the hardships of being the son of Jamaican immigrants to Miami. I thoroughly enjoyed some of the short stories, while some were very hard to read due to being written in mostly slang.

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This collection of short stories is one of the sharpest, most eye-opening works I’ve read in a long time, and it’s easy to see why Mr. Escoffery has garnered so much attention and won so many accolades. This man is a born storyteller, and a prodigiously gifted one at that. The reason for the adage “Write what you know” is on full display here, in a series of stories linked by the main character, Trelawny, the child of Jamaican parents, as he struggles to carve out a place for himself in the US beginning with his childhood in the 1980s and making his way through early adulthood in the early 2000’s. He deftly captures the meandering journey of self-discovery, in all its dimensions and directions, of one who didn’t fit neatly into any of the boxes created by the impersonal and often thoughtless social constructs in place at that time. This work is, simply put, deeply impressive both in what he conveys and how he conveys it. Quite honestly, it’s scary to think that this is his debut work, because this work is so polished, deftly written with heart, humor and acuity of insight, that I can’t imagine the heights he’ll scale as a writer. Add this one to your “To Read” list if you haven’t already. And many, many thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux for my ARC copy — what a gem this was to discover! (less)

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This is a collection of stories that tell the history of a Jamaican/American family. It lays bare the issue of race, violence, and survival in a hostile society. The young man is never really comfortable with with background as a mix-race child. I know someone in his sixties who struggles with this still. What is equal about a system that measures your mettle and makes assumptions about you by the degree of darkness of your skin? My thanks to the author and NetGalley for a complimentary copy of this book.

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This darkly funny novel in short story about a family of Jamaican immigrants and their sons. It deals with race and capitalism in a great way.

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If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery is a collection of connected short stories about an immigrant Jamaican family in Miami. The parents flee violence in their homeland to seek a safer life for themselves and their children. Living in Miami presents different challenges for each family member and the stories shift point-of-view as they share their individual struggles. Trelawny, the youngest son and only one born outside of Jamaica, is the main character and we come to understand his challenges of identity both within his family, the communities he lives in the U.S. and Jamaica, and within himself.

This is an amazing first story collection by a talented story teller whose characters were real and relationships were complex. Each and every story was well developed and contributed to the reader’s understanding of the family members as individuals and as a dysfunctional unit. I loved this book and highly recommend it. I’m looking forward to reading more by Escoffery.

Thank you to NetGalley, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and the author for and early copy in exchange for an honest review.

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If I Survive You
By Jonathan Escoffery

This is a book with a lot to say about race and not belonging. It is not, however, the typical black vs. white tale as much as it concerns layers of color and "where you come from" and what group(s) you do or don't belong to.

Our protagonist is Trelawny, a boy born in America of Jamaican parents. His parents are both light skinned, as is he. He does not identify as black or Hispanic – he does not speak Spanish. He considers himself American. Through his story, we get glimpses of how those of other races view others and themselves.

I confess that I got bogged down in extended segments written in the patois of the islands, which I found hard to understand and distracting. I'm sure that the book would have been much more eye-opening with regard to race if I didn't have to work so hard to get through it. While the patois will be meaningful to people of Caribbean extraction, it may limit how much of the author's message gets through to readers as a whole.

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Really unique writing that captured multiple lives as they wove together. I loved the writing and was captivated by each chapter which read like short stories

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