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).
Believe it or not, I’m kind of happy with the way January is shaping up already, five days in. After the disappointments of December I am definitely ready for change. I’m running more these days. I convinced a friend to see sirsy with me. I’m not sure what she thought, but I am still in love with the lyrics. Anyway, enough of that. Here are the books:
- The Catastrophist by Ronan Bennett – in honor of Bennett’s birthday being on the 14th of January. (EB)
- Sanctuary by Ken Bruen – in honor of Bruen’s birthday also being in January. Confessional: I read this book in one day. (EB)
- The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat – in honor of Danticat’s birthday also being in January. (EB)
- Graced Land by Laura Kalapakian – in honor of Elvis’s birth month also being in January.
- Passage to India by E.M. Forster – in honor of Forster’s birth month also being in January. Yes, celebrating a lot of birthdays this month!
- Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba by Tom Gjelten – in honor of a Cuban Read Day held in January.
- Beijing of Possibilities by Jonathan Tel – in honor of China’s spring festival.
- Persuader by Lee Child – the last one in the series, read in honor of New York becoming a state in July (and where Child lived at the time I made this whole thing up). (AB)
- The Master of Hestviken: the Son Avenger by Sigrid Undset – this is another series I am wrapping up. I started it in October in honor of a pen pal I used to know in Norway.
- I am supposed to receive an Early Review from November’s list, but it hasn’t arrived so I can’t mention it. For the first time in a long, long time (perhaps ever, I’ll have to look), I did not request a book for the month of December.
Danticat, Edwidge. The Dew Breaker. Read by Robin Miles. New York: Recorded Books, 2004.
This is an amazing book, pure and simple. The plot is as remarkable as the telling. What appear to be disconnected short stories are really different connections to one man, the Dew Breaker. In Haiti during the dictatorial 1960s this man was responsible for torturing and killing innocent people. Years later, with his evil past behind him, the Dew Breaker is trying to live a quiet life as a barber in Brooklyn, New York. Through the various chapters we meet his connections – his family, his victims, his community. His past slowly comes out in small segments. It behooves the reader to pay close attention to the detail Danticat gives to each chapter, to each story. A mystery from a previous chapter could be solved in the next. A seemingly meaningless character in one chapter becomes the key to everything in another. This was definitely one of my favorites.
Reason read: Edwidge Danticat was born in the month of January.
Author fact: Everyone has a FaceBook page these days. Here’s Danticat’s.
Book trivia: The Dew Breaker was too short. But, the audio, read by Robin Miles, was fabulous.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “The Contradictory Caribbean: Paradise and Pain” (p 56).
Danticat, Edwidge. After the Dance: a Walk Through Carnival in Jacmel, Haiti. New York: Crown Publishers, 2002.
The premise for After the Dance is really quite simple. Danticat, despite growing up in Haiti, has never been to Carnival. Being one of the largest cultural events that defines the island, this seems impossible to imagine. But, the explanation is just as simple. While growing up, Danticat’s uncle convinced her Satan was at work during Carnival. To avoid the voodoo and zombies every year this uncle made his family leave town for the week to work on a relative’s farm. As an obvious result Danitcat grew up afraid of Carnival. After the Dance is her response to that fear, faced head on. She researches the symbolism and history behind it, but curiously enough, she doesn’t describe the actual event until the last 20 or so pages of the book. It isn’t until the very end (page 147) that she gives in to the emotion and describes what she feels. I have to admit, the result is anticlimactic. She eventually loses herself in the joy of Carnival but that joy is understated like a passing flicker of interest.
Quotes I liked, “There is a saying here: houses don’t have owners, only cemeteries do” (p 27).
Reasons I like Edwidge Danticat: “I have always enjoyed cemeteries” (p 25).
Reason read: January is Journal Month. It is also the anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Haiti in 2010. It is also when Carnival traditionally takes place (the first Sunday in January).
Author fact: Danticat moved to Brooklyn, New York when she was twelve but never forgot her roots.
Book trivia: This is a short read – only 158 pages. It would have been great to have photographs to supplement the text.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Cavorting Through the Caribbean: Haiti” (p 55).