The simplicity of Dany Laferrière’s style in his latest novel, The Return, allows life in Haiti to shine through. Nominated for the 2011 Giller Prize longlist, and recipient of the Prix Médicis and the Grand Prix du livre de Montréal, The Return is what Laferrière calls the latest installment in his “American autobiography.” 

The Return doesn’t follow a strict sequence of events — instead, little stories are left to shape the readers emotions and impressions about the journey of coming home.

The story depicts protagonist Windsor Laferrière’s return to Haiti following the death of his estranged father. After leaving Haiti in 1976 to work as a writer in Montreal, during the “Baby Doc” Duvalier regime, Windsor returns with memories of his youth, the spirit of his father, and openness to Haiti’s present.

Although Laferrière‘s short sentences leave little to the imagination, Laferrière‘s admiration of Haiti is fostered through Windsor’s seamless mix of poetry and prose, and from the perspective of its citizens.

Windsor sees the future of Haiti in the hands of his nephew’s generation, who continue to face the same hard challenges of the previous generations.

Haitians continue to live below the villas of the wealthy and must endure the daily challenges of poverty, hunger, exile, and death. And the unfortunate truth in The Return is that the most subversive thing, which the poor can do “is to do everything to be happy.”

Windsor also encounters a variety of characters during his travel to Port-au-Prince: his grandmother’s grave in Petit-Goâve, and his father’s village of Baradères. Meeting these people helps him step back into life in Port-au-Prince  — something he has, at times, contradictory feelings about.

However, “feel[ing] like a foreigner in [his] own city,” is part of his journey back from exile.

And it is ultimately Windsor who best expresses the motif in The Return when he says, “I believe that stories aren’t necessarily big or small but that they’re all linked together. The ensemble forms a hard and compact mass that we can call, for convenience’s sake, life.”