on 29 June 2007
Danticat moves beyond the stream of consciousness of "Krick Krack" and takes us on a voyage to the Dominican Republic and opens our hearts to the drama of a terrifyingly real era of hatred personified. Moving away from the quiet life of a plantation type existence.
The novel lands us in a holocaust situation where the host country becomes murderous and ravenous. The exciting adventure builds from a quiet from a pastoral love story into a fight for survival of Annabelle, the main character, who will be caught in your mind for days afterwards. Sebastien and Annabelle make an adoring couple, even though they are so young. Danticat masterfully evokes the atmosphere of hatred and terror of the massacre of Haitians by Dominicans through the eyes of Amabelle, who at the same time have only a few memories of her childhood and is incredibly uncertain future.
I thought this book was an excellent representation of how life was treated back in 1937 in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Not only was this a pure love story, but it was so factual and real. Danticat does an excellent job with her writing this novel, and deserves an applause. This book was touching and gripping at the same time. As a Haitian American I have always had an interest in understanding the history and problems which exist and have existed in Haiti, but in reading several texts I often find that the language of the genre is often uninteresting. For me Danticat changes that, she takes a historical event in Haitian history and structures it magnificently through the eyes of her young female character. I am glad that there is someone like Ms. Danticat in the literary world to help young Haitians like myself gain a better understanding of Haiti and its culture.
Interesting read, that deals with the horrific 'ethnic cleansing' of 1937, suffered by poor Haitian immigrants living in the neighbouring Dominican Republic. I knew nothing of this era, which is brought to life through the narrative of Haitian Amabelle; the frenzied attempts to escape back home, the not knowing if loved ones are dead or alive.
I can't say I found this to be a massively compelling read; perhaps it should have been, given the subject matter. But Danticat writes simply and in short sentences which fail to engage and the characters felt flat and while the events were shocking, I couldn't feel particularly interested in them.
on 9 January 2014
Dark, poetical and dramatic tale about Haitian Amabelle Désir, who as a young girl was adopted by a Dominican plantation owner after her parents drowned in the river separating the two countries. The novel begins is the small town of Alegría on the island of Hispaniola where two kinds of people live: in the east, in the Dominican Republic the people consider Spain their homeland. The western half is Haiti, once imperial France's most profitable colony thanks to slave labour on vast sugar plantations, but the slaves liberated themselves in the late 18th century. In the east Haitians have always had few rights and serve(d) as cheap farm labour.
This novel is Amabelle's life story about her search for her lover Sebastien and in particular the story of a forgotten campaign of ethnic cleansing in 1937 instigated by the then Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo, who ruled from 1930 until 1961, during which 20-30.000 Haitians were murdered. Why? Whoever could not pronounce properly the Spanish word for parsley was doomed. How? Read this book and shiver.
Through her dreams and her real life Amabelle describes who and what she has lost and hopes to retrieve. In 1961, shortly after Trujillo's assassination, she smuggles herself back across the frontier to Alegría, back to the house where she grew up with Valencia. Later, working as the family's maid, she helped Valencia give birth to twins. This happened just before the hunt for Haitians started... How will it be to see Alegría and Valencia after so long?
Beautiful book, rich in emotions and written from Amabelle's own, limited perspective. This is a strength and a weakness. The real author interrupts Amabelle's sad story of her life only once to add something to her account. Should she have done that more often or not at all? Highly recommended.
on 3 February 2014
I think Danticat is a gifted writer. This novel is a touching story of 1930s Haiti, where intrigues , passions, schisms and hardships fuelled instability which amongst other things also resulted to the massacre of Haitians by Dominicans under the Trujillo regime . Brilliantly told by Danticat , this sad epoch of Haitian history ends up making a captivating read. Disciples of Fortune, Breath, Eyes, Memory The Usurper: and Other Stories, are also some of the stories I enjoyed.
on 4 February 1999
My first introduction to Edwidge Danticat came in the form of a casual glance at her first novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory, which had been featured as an Oprah Book Selection sometime last year. My university was adopting the text for its Freshman Composition series, and various professors on campus were reading and discussing the next. I didn't pay much attention to it all at the time; after all, I was submerged in my various papers and projects and didn't even have time to read something other than school work.
And then Edwidge Danticat came to my university last October. I was asked my my rhetoric professor to design a program for the event and as a thank-you, she presented me with a personalized copy of Danticat's latest novel. Ms. Danticat impressed me, however, with her readings, and I purchased her collection of short stories since the last selection literally grabbed me from the back of the room. It wasn't until last week, after the holidays and papers, that I finally picked up her third effort to read.
Set during the chaotic late 1930s on the Dominican side of Haiti, The Farming of Bones tells the story of Amabelle Désir, an orphaned houseworker and hopeful midwife who has just delivered twins to her childhood companion and mistress. Found at the age of eight at the edge of the brutal river which took her parents, Amabelle grows up beside the wealth daughter of the plantation owner. When she is eighteen, she falls in love with Sebastian, a sugar cane worker, who loves her as much; secretly, they meet in her room to share dinner, talk, and passions. Theirs is a pure, sweet love that everyone hopes to find in their lifetime, but it is also a love that is eventually shattered by Haitian slaughter.
Amabelle flees for the border, hoping to meet Sebastian on the other side. Instead, she is beaten and left for dead when, in an allusion to the Book of Judges, she does not properly pronounce pési, the Spanish word for parsley. The moment is further solidified when Amabelle knows she can pronounce the word and save her life, but out of sheer panic, terror, and perhaps even deliberateness, does not. The scene is further enhanced with a brutal moment in which parsley is shoved and stuffed into her mouth, as if the soldiers are preparing an animal for the dinner table, is emotionally devastating for the reader.
But Amabelle is rescued then, if not in mind and spirit, at least in body. She recovers slowly, living with the mother of the man who survived the crossing with her. But she cannot love him, even though they are both survivors and are drawn to each other by that very fact. Shattered and devastated by the sights and sounds of other survivors, Amabelle's life after the massacre is one marked by regret, fear, and wondering. Is Sebastian dead? What became of those left behind? Will she ever return? Her life stands still. She grows old. Years pass. And still she remembers.
I don't think I could give this novel enough justice here with this limited format. Danticat is an exceptionally gifted writer, with the ability to draw her readers into the text, story, and characters by painting simple, yet vivid portraits. I do believe that I had a distinct advantage having met Ms. Danticat in person and having heard her read from her books and stories, for whenever I picture Amabelle in my head, I see Danticat's face instead. Her lilting voice and quiet demeanor set the stage for Amabelle, the equally quiet and pensive houseworker.
I wish I could decide on a sample to include with this review, but the truth is that there isn't enough room here to do so. There are too many passages that moved me and caught my eye. The best I can do is highly recommend this book. I believe that Edwidge Danticat is poised to become the next Toni Morrison, and I hope my prediction comes true.