Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Farming of Bones

by Edwidge Danticat

In 1937, Amabelle, an orphaned Haitian woman working in the Dominican Republic, dreams of returning to Haiti with her lover Sebastien, a sugarcane cutter (the scar-inflicting “bones” of the title).  Instead, they are both caught up in the racist anti-immigrant furor stirred up Trujillo, and the killing, which will be latter be known as the Parsley Massacre, or El Corte, begins.  Amabelle flees, separated from Sebastien, and tries to forge a new life that is nothing like the one she dreamed of.

This is a deep and powerful novel.  The characters are fully realized, the prose not complex, but dreamlike and richly evocative.  The story is tragic, and important to tell (20,000 Haitians died in this massacre, though it is rarely remembered outside of Haiti), but the haunting message of the book is that “misery won’t touch you gentle.  It always leaves its thumbprints on you; sometimes it leaves them for others to see, sometimes for nobody but you to know of.”  Decades after the event, Amabelle cannot find closure; this is the tragedy of the survivor.

four stars

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