When her mother leaves Haiti to find work in the US, Sophie is raised by her aunt. Their parting, years later, when her mother sends for her, is as wrenching as the reunion in New York. Though she barely knows her mother they both carry secrets from their homeland that will haunt them forever.
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(157mm x 199mm x 15mm)
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
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US Kirkus Review »
Sexual traumas link a Haitian mother and her daughter in this wonderfully self-assured debut by 24-year-old Haitian-American Danticat. The world of Sophie Caco, her beloved guardian Tante Atie, and her grandmother IfC the matriarch of this peasant family, is bounded by the sugar-cane fields of rural Haiti. When 12-year-old Sophie is summoned to New York to live with the family provider, Maxine, the mother she cannot remember, she is dismayed. Maxine is perpetually tired after her nursing-home double-shift; she lives alone and dates a lawyer called Marc. She also tells Sophie that she is the product of a rape; a stranger forced himself on Maxine in a sugar-cane field. Seeing her daughter again has revived memories of the rape, and Maxine is suffering constant nightmares. Six years later, Sophie, who has never had a boyfriend, falls in love with their much older next-door neighbor Joseph, a black American jazz musician. Maxine follows a Haitian tradition and checks regularly to make sure Sophie is still a virgin. Horrified by this violation of her body, Sophie deflowers herself with a pestle and elopes with Joseph, enduring sex because she now hates her body, though her baby Brigitte is a consolation. Slowly, through her family's sheltering love on a return visit to Haiti and the new-world ministrations of her therapist, Sophie comes to understand her mother ("I knew my hurt and hers were links in a long chain"), but it's too late: Maxine, pregnant by Marc and racked by nightmares again, dies during a crude self-abortion. Danticat keeps graceful control of this difficult material while adroitly sketching the larger political context and making both peasants and pediatricians equally convincing. An impressive first outing. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Edwidge Danticat
Edwidge Danticat was born in Haiti in 1969 under the dicatatorial Duvalier regime. Her award-winning short stories, was nominated for the 1995 National Book Award. She has been chosen as one of the New Yorker magazine's '20 Young Writers for the 21st Century.