By Medha Setia | Opening Doorz Editorial | July 11, 2021
Book Review: Clap When You Land
Author: Elizabeth Acevedo
The Essence: This is a powerful, heartbreaking, and compelling novel. The verses written are deft at sifting through the complex emotions that arise in the wake of great loss and love born amid grief. This book is poignant and impossible to put down as it breathes life into the fictional characters that develop and mature as the story unfolds. It is an outstanding read and I recommend everyone to read it at least once.
Clap When You Land Book Review
Clap When You Land written by Elizabeth Acevedo is yet another novel in verse that explores the intricacies of bittersweet bonds and the devastation of loss. It is a narrative that burrows deep into the reader’s mind nudging them to see the plot through the character’s perspective, exploring the depths of grief. It also delves into family relationships.
To get out the essence of a long plot in verse takes some doing and that is the beauty of Clap When You Land—it is poetry in motion!
It is a tale of two sisters, Yahaira and Camino, who are oblivious to the existence of the other. Separated by the Atlantic Ocean the only string that connects them is their father. This story conveys that a parental figure despite being deeply flawed remains an integral part of their children’s life. Their father ensures that the two families never cross paths. However, when an American Airlines flight bound for the Dominican Republic crashes in Queens, New York his efforts go down in vain. The father dies in the crash and that is when Camino understands the existence of Yahaira.
Truths that unravel intertwine Camino and Yahaira’s fate and slowly forge a bond between them.
Camino Rios and life in the Dominican Republic
Camino Rios, a sixteen-year-old, lives a humble life with her aunt in Puerto Plata after her mother died a decade earlier. She yearns of moving to New York City for higher education and ultimately studying medicine. Every June, she looks forward to the time when her father can travel to the Dominican Republic and spend the summer with her. However, that summer the plane her father is travelling in, crashes.
His tragic death dashes any hopes Camino has for becoming a doctor and escaping El Cero, a dealer in underage prostitutes. El Cero keeps luring Camino into a seedy life that has trapped many other girls. Camino, on her part, tries hard to stay on the right track and survive this dog-eat-dog world, wrestling her fate for a safe environment to thrive in.
While El Cero represents a looming threat, ever-mounting financial trouble in the wake of her father’s death threatens her desires to leave the island. As the weeks pass, her aunt, Tia unravels the truth to Camino about the existence of Yahaira, her sister. She explains that Camino could still fulfil her dreams, by laying a legal claim to the insurance money as Papi’s daughter. But she warns that the request of the claim could be blocked by the other family. This revelation brings with it a flurry of emotions that drives Camino to connect with Yahaira through social media.
Yahaira Rios and life in New York City
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away in New York, Yahaira, a champion chess player lives in an apartment in Morning Heights, with her mother, who runs a small spa. She desires to go with her father on the annual business trip until the day she accidentally chances upon her father’s marriage certificate that carried someone else’s name in place of her mother. Putting two and two together she understands the motive of her father’s annual summer trips to the Dominican Republic. The image of her father crashes, creating a rift between them.
Yahaira feels straddled between two worlds. She longs to visit the place that held significant importance to her father, which was also her birthplace. Grappling with conflicting emotions she decides to explore the unseen waters of relations in the Dominican Republic. She believes her trip will answer questions of her true belonging and solve the relation she has with Camino.
A plane crash and skeletons come tumbling out
Clap When You Land is a story of skeletons coming tumbling out. The secrets shatter the world of two families taking them through a path steeped with tragedy and grief. Both Yahaira and Camino are fighting throughout the story. Camino feels grateful for being alive, but she can’t help but envy the life Yahaira has. She feels that Yahaira, after all, got to live with their father nine months a year in their New York apartment, while she had to compromise, Yahaira got love from both her parents whereas she yearned for the love and attention her entire life.
This story juxtaposes the voices of the two girls as they discover that the man whom they once idolized was nothing but a terrible husband and a lying, selfish man. They wonder if they will ever forgive him for his betrayal and for the troubles and unanswered questions he has left behind.
The title of this novel holds within itself a history of the tradition of clapping that is a praise for the pilot’s performance and applause for ourselves to finally have reached our destinations. It is a moment when people thank God for their safe arrival.
This is a powerful, heartbreaking, and compelling novel. The verses written by Elizabeth Acevedo are deft at sifting through the complex emotions that arise in the wake of great loss and love born amid grief. This book is poignant and impossible to put down as it breathes life into the fictional characters that develop and mature as the story unfolds. It is an outstanding read and I recommend everyone to read it at least once.