Danticat, Edwidge. The Farming of Bones. New York: Penguin Books, 1998.
Reason read: Danticat’s birth month is in January. I may have mentioned this before, but she is barely a month older than me.
Danticat has one of those voices that just spills over you in a warm ooze. Be warned, though. She does not shy away from the harsh realities of extreme violence spurred on by dictatorial blind hatred. It begins slowly and subtly; almost a foreshadowing. A Haitian man, walking down the side of the road, is struck and killed by an automobile driven by a man rushing to get to the birth of his grandson. Consider this – the Haitian’s corpse is unceremoniously thrown into a deep and dark ravine to cover up the accident. The Dominican Republican man continues his hurried journey home without a second glance. Days later said-same grandson dies in his sleep and is given an elaborate vigil, an orchid painted casket, and ceremonial burial of grandeur. These two families, the hit and run victim and the newborn babe, share the same level of shock and grief but only one is allowed to fully demonstrate their pain. The Haitian man doesn’t even get a pine casket.
This is just the beginning of Danticat’s tale as we follow Haitian servant Amabelle Desir as she works in a wealthy Dominican Republic household. Life seems to be perfect considering the circumstances and her position in life. She is passionately in love with a cane worker she plans to marry and her employer was once a childhood playmate. They get along and Amabelle is treated well. Enter Domincan Republican dictator Rafael Trujillo and his plan to wipe out the entire Haitian population by mass genocide. Those who can not flee fast enough are subject to horrific torture before being hacked or burned to death. Amabelle’s world is turned upside down when she is separated from her love as she tries to escape the massacre.
The ending was perfect. I won’t give it away, but in order for this book to mean something there was no other ending possible.
Quotes I just have to quote, “Wherever I go, I will always be standing over her body” (p 205), “But some sorrows were simply too individual to share” (p 252), and “You may be surprised what we use our dreams to do, how we drape them over our sight and carry them like amulets to protect us from evil spells” (p 265).
Author fact: Danticat won the American Book Award for The Farming of Bones.
Book trivia: The Farming of Bones is Danticat’s second novel.
Nancy said: Pearl called The Farming of Bones “very political.” Because of the nonfiction elements to the story I would definitely agree.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Contrary Caribbean: Paradise and Pain” (p 55).
- The Master of Hestviken: the Axe by Sigrid Undset.
- October Light by John Gardner.
- Jamesland by Michelle Huneven.
- The Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows by Patrick Chamoiseau.
- Isabel’s Bed by Elinor Lipman.
- Wyoming Summer by Mary O’Hara.
- Obsession with Butterflies by Sharman Apt Russell.
- Running Blind by Lee Child.
Early Review for LibraryThing
- Lou Reed: Notes From the Velvet Underground by Howard Sounes.
Chamoiseau, Patrick. Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows. Translated by Linda Coverdale. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska, 1988.
Reason read: October is the month to celebrate Magical Realism.
The spiritual awakenings of the long dead undead and the magical presence of the beam of everlasting moonlight across the wayward ocean of the Caribbean. Siloce, Hepla, Kouli, Mam Elo, Ti-Boute, Fefee Celie, Anatase, Ti-Choute, Bidjoule, and all the others thread their way through witchcraft markets teeming with childbirth and djobbers like Didon, Sirop, Pin-Pon, Lapochide, Sifilon and our hero, Pipi Soleil. It takes thirty pages to get to Pipi Soleil through abundant pregnancies and whatnot, but Pipi as as king of the wheelbarrow takes center stage. The first thing you need to understand is this is a story told by ghosts and witchcraft and moves back and forth through time as though sequence is of no matter, because it isn’t. Spanning thirty years from the mid 1940s to the mid 1970s, Martinique’s Fort-de-France teems full of djobbers, independent transporters of wares and Pipi Soleil rules them all. He once hauled his wares by boat but after one particularly stormy night he gave up the sea for a wheelbarrow. Even if the plot does not grab you, the lyrical writing will.
Confessional: I have said this before. I am not a good reader of magical realism. I find myself annoyed by the seemingly unrelated fantastical. Seems like more of a trick to me than a treat.
Lines I lived, “She was going to grab fate, she said, by a different end” (p 18), “the young couple made their love debut in this setting – which isn’t of the slightest importance” (p 29), and “She dumped out a big basket of weariness and brought laughter and smiles back form some lost corner of her mind” (p 85).
Author fact: Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows was Chamoiseau’s first novel.
Book trivia: Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows was first published in France in 1986.
Nancy said: Peal called Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows a “vivid” novel.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Contradictory Caribbean: Paradise and Pain” (p 55).
Montero, Mayra. Captain of the Sleepers. Translated by Edith Grossman. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2002.
Reason read: Hostos Day in Puerto Rico is on January 11th.
This is a very quick read. Once you get into it you won’t be able to put it down, and luckily because of its length you won’t have to. This is the story of Andreas Yasin who has carried a grudge against family friend J.T. Bunker for his entire adult life. Believing Bunker betrayed his family by having an affair with his mother when he was a small boy, Andreas seeks revenge against the now 83 year old man dying of cancer. But what is reality and what is just a childish memory? Set in the time of the Puerto Rican Independence movement politics permeate Andreas’s world.
Best line, “There is nothing more predictable for a mother than her own child” (p 127).
I know I’ve said this before but I am always amazed when my hometown of Monhegan is mentioned somewhere. I knew something was up when Montero gave one of her characters the home town of Port Clyde, Maine.
Author fact: Mayra Montero wrote one of my earliest Early Review books for LibraryThing, Dancing to ‘Almendra’ back in 2007.
Author trivia: I’m guessing Montero likes cats. The photograph of her on the dust jacket of Captain has a picture of her with a beautiful cat on her lap, only she looks like she is trying to strangle it!
Book trivia: I read this in one insomnia fueled night. It’s only 180 pages long.
Nancy said: Nancy has more to say about the translator than the book.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Cavorting Through the Caribbean: Puerto Rico (p 57).
Chamoisseau, Patrick. Texaco. New York: Pantheon Books, 1997.
Reason read: October is the month for magical realism.
Disclaimer: I usually have a hard time with magical realism and I had already tried to read this book once before.
This sweeping saga traces one hundred and fifty years of Martinique history. Mostly told from the point of view of Marie-Sophie Laborieux, the daughter of a former slave, texaco is the story of a shantytown of the same name besieged from every angle. From within, the society is wrathful and distrusting. From without everyone is a stranger. The language is mystical but I found my mind wandering as a result.
As I mentioned earlier, I tried reading this once before and failed. No different this time around.
Lines I liked, “The answers to this question were so abundant that the real truth forever slipped through our fingers” (p 10) and “It didn’t take them two centuries to decide what to do” (p 55).
Author Fact: Chamoisseau also wrote Chronicle of the Seven Sorrows which is on my list.
Book Trivia: Texaco is a Prix Goncourt winner.
BookLust Twist: from two places. First, in Book Lust in the chapter called, “Magical Realism” (p 148) and second, in More Book Lust in the chapter called, “The Contradictory Caribbean: Pleasure and Pain” (p 56).
December 2009 is promising to be an interesting month. I’m taking Kisa to the island for Christmas (his first winter visit ever – we’ve already consulted L.L. Bean twice). Doctors are weighing in on serious subjects (yours and mine) and I await every word with caught breath. It’s not always about me, but the waiting is just the same.
For books it is a simple month:
- Tiepolo’s Hound by Derek Walcott in honor of December being the best time to visit the Caribbean.
- Tortilla Curtain by T. Coraghessan Boyle in honor of Iowa becoming a state (Boyle was part of the Iowa Writers Workshop. He was also born on December 2nd).
- Perma Red by Debra Magpie Earling in honor of Native American literature month.
- Wonderboys by Michael Chabon in honor of Pennsylvania becoming a state.
- Walls Came Tumbling Down by Babs Deal in honor of Alabama becoming a state.
I don’t think I have any nonfiction for the month. Strictly imaginary but oddly enough, nothing about Christmas this year. For LibraryThing’s Early Review program I found out I am supposed to receive Then Came the Evening a first book by Brian Hart. I snuck a peek at some Library Journal / Amazon reviews and this promises to be a heartbreaking story.