Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2023. An exhilarating novel-in-stories that pulses with style, heart and barbed humour, while unravelling what it means to carve out an existence between cultures, homes and pay cheques
In 1979, as political violence consumes their native Kingston, Topper and Sanya flee to Miami. But they soon learn that the welcome in America will be far from warm.
Trelawny, their youngest son, comes of age in a society that regards him with suspicion and confusion. Their eldest son Delano’s longing for a better future for his own children is equalled only by his recklessness in trying to secure it.
As both brothers navigate the obstacles littered in their path – an unreliable father, racism, a financial crisis and Hurricane Andrew – they find themselves pitted against one another. Will their rivalry be the thing that finally tears their family apart?
An astonishingly assured debut novel, lauded by the panel for its clarity, variety and fizzing prose. As the stories move back and forth through geography and time, we are confronted by the immigrants’ eternal questions: who am I now and where do I belong?— The Booker Prize 2023 judges
It took approximately ten years to write If I Survive You, though there were many long pauses, as I moved homes frequently in search of ways to sustain myself and my writing practice. I don’t write much longhand, but I write a lot in my head and that’s what I did during those pauses. There were 50 or so drafts written.
I am always in the process of conducting research for my projects, though I do so during the writing process, and not necessarily beforehand. I write toward discovery and typically stop to plot out a story only when I feel particularly stuck, but find that looking back at what’s already on the page can guide me forward as well, because there may be a natural trajectory suggested in the early pages.
I prefer to write at my desk, on my desktop, to keep as consistent a writing habit as possible. My book was mostly written on my laptop, though, at my desk and at cafes and on trains, and in bed too. Wherever I work, I’m usually surrounded by stacks of books, some of which may have a tangential relationship with what I’m working on.
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‘In Jonathan Escoffery’s vital, captivating debut novel, each chapter takes us deeper into a family album of stories, revealing the life and survival of a family, fleeing the violence of early Seventies’ Jamaica for the uncertain sanctuary of a new beginning in America.
‘From the heartbreaking to the hilarious, Escoffery effortlessly conducts the various voices, contradictory in their perspectives, their dreams and desires, while wrestling with the age-old immigrant dilemma - who are my people and where do I belong?
‘As with the best fiction, all of life is here in unflinching detail: the vagaries of capitalism, our yearning for a safety net, international migration, the American Dream, the fragility of existence, climate change, catastrophic misunderstandings and the road not taken.’