You Were Watching from the Sand | Critical Book Review

You Were Watching From the Sand by Juliana Lamy, winner of the Ann Petry Award, thrusts readers into a steely-eyed exploration of Haitian life spanning the Dominican Republic to Florida. Lamy’s debut short story collection unearths the intersection of Haitian culture and mysticism, interwoven with a stark portrayal of violence. The narratives dissect intimate relationships, exposing the complexities of pain, trials, and affections.

Glimpses of Desperation and Otherworldly Encounters

Muscle Memory: Lamy navigates the challenges faced by two friends from impoverished backgrounds, attempting to keep pace with their affluent peers, delving into themes of jealousy and societal disparity.

July in New Orleans: The story follows Pocket, a young man who unexpectedly encounters Death in a diner, offering an intriguing exploration of mortality.

Sylpha: The titular character manipulates her dreams in a quest to emulate her family’s legacy, leading to a poignant exploration of generational traditions.

Eli: A young woman’s unlikely reaction to a kidnapping on her way to buy froyo adds an unexpected layer of complexity to the collection.

Mermaids: The narrative delves into the relationship between a young girl and her trans friend, exploring themes of love and threat.

Themes of Resilience and Marginalization

Lamy recurrently weaves themes of queer love, profound hardship, and supernatural occurrences throughout her collection. The marginalized voices—the abandoned, abused, and those without options—take center stage in each story. Despite their resilience, Lamy maintains a sense of realism and honesty that prevents the narratives from descending into clichés.

Magnetic Characters and Lyrical Prose

Every character in You Were Watching From the Sand possesses a magnetic, well-realized humanity and complexity, even when originating from otherworldly realms. Lamy’s lyrical prose enhances the sharpness and arrest of each story. The collection, with its mysterious, inexplicable, and ordinary moments, etches itself into the reader’s heart, offering a layered exploration that resonates after every read. In capturing the rawness and inescapable tension of being alive, Lamy crafts a work that is both eloquent and charismatic, leaving a lasting impact on the reader’s soul.

Publisher, Genre, Print Length, and ISBN

PublisherGenrePrint LengthISBN
Red Hen PressLiterary Fiction / Short Stories176 pages9781636281056

You Were Watching From the Sand by Juliana Lamy, winner of the Ann Petry Award, thrusts readers into a steely-eyed exploration of Haitian life spanning the Dominican Republic to Florida. Lamy’s debut short story collection unearths the intersection of Haitian culture and mysticism, interwoven with a stark portrayal of violence. The narratives dissect intimate relationships,…