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The Scorpion's Claw

Resistance, recovery and re-creation go to the heart of this novel, which tells the past and present of two generations of Haitians, tied both by relations of blood and by the shedding of it. In the process, Myriam Chancy narrates the bloody history of the last six centuries of Haiti itself, from the violent years of colonialism and slavery, to the chaotic aftermath of the fall of the Baby Doc regime.


Myriam Chancy
Date published
16 Mar 2005

In a society in which men in blue ‘stick a gun to their hips and call it their life’, and blood runs like rainwater through the streets, a family is flung apart, to the point of shattering. But it is Josèphe’s act of remembrance, of bringing to voice her grandmother, cousins, friends, and her self, that brings down the barriers of place, time, even death, to bring the family together, and to relieve each of the weight of the past they have had to bear. 

The power of this challenging, multi-layered novel is in its network of narrative voices which set the poetic against the brutal to striking effect. Josèphe is safe but desperately lonely in Canada; her grandmother dies terrified for her family’s future; her cousin Alphonse flees to the USA where he hopes to escape the dark shadow cast by his father; and his half-brother Delphi joins the rebels and pays the heaviest price. Josèphe’s best friend Desirée also rebels, but finds underground a community with the power to breathe vivid new life into her veins. Within and behind them all stands the amazing figure of Mami Céleste, the mambo who has lived and died four lifetimes and whose tongue can speak the whole history of Haiti, but who is also Delphi’s mother, Josèphe’s inspiration, Desirée’s spiritual saviour, and another victim of the Tonton Macoutes’ brutality.

Their stories are threaded through with ancestral echoes, historical connections, and the powerful mysteries of voodoo rites, all of which come to us through the enchanting rhythms of Haitian Créole. Myriam Chancy has created a deeply important novel, unique in its exploration of the harsh realities of postcolonial Haiti from a womanist perspective, and remarkable because it does so with such insight, sensitivity and poetry.

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Myriam Chancy

Myriam J. A. Chancy, Ph. D., is a Haitian-Canadian writer born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti (Ph. D., Iowa).

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