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It is 1937, and Amabelle Desir is a young Haitian woman working as a maid for a wealthy family in the Dominican Republic, across the border from her homeland. The Republic, under the iron rule of the Generalissimo, treats the Haitians as second-class citizens, and although Amabelle feels a strong sense of loyalty to her employers, especially since her own parents drowned crossing the river from Haiti, racial tensions are heightened when Amabelle's boss accidentally kills a Haitian in a car accident. The accident is a catalyst for a systematic round-up of Haitians, ostensibly for repatriation but in fact a prelude to slaughter. Amabelle, caught up in the chaos and confusion, returns to Haiti after much hardship to make a new life, but is for years uncertain of the fate of her lover, Sebastian, and haunted by a nagging sense of guilt. A powerful, fiercely economical and deceptively moving work, blending historical accuracy with lyrical brilliance.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780349111636
ISBN-10: 0349111634
Format: Paperback
(198mm x 131mm x 22mm)
Pages: 320
Imprint: Abacus
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 6-Apr-2000
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Reviews

UK Kirkus Review » Lush vegetation and clear blue skies form the backdrop to acts of extreme nationalism and barbarity in the Caribbean of the 1930s. When rumours begin that Haitians are being persecuted and killed in neighbouring towns, a Haitian maid working in the Dominican Republic and her lover are plunged into an unimaginable nightmare. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » A strong second novel from the Haitian-born author whose debut, Breath, Eyes, Memory (1994), was recently anointed by Oprah, and whose story collection, Krik ? Krak !, won the National Book Award in 1995. Danticat's subject is the 1937 massacre by Dominican islanders of Haitians living within their borders, at the command of Dominican dictator Trujillo - as experienced, and then remembered many years afterward, by the story's narrator, Haitian maidservant Amabelle Desir. In the lyrically written opening section, Amabelle's intimate moments with her lover, sugarcane worker Sebastien Onius (the two of them share memories of their deceased parents), are counterpointed against her submissive relationship with Senora Valencia, the wife of a Dominican army officer whose own loss of a child subtly foreshadows the many disasters to come. The long middle of the story describes the despised and terrified Haitians' extended march back to their own country, during which Amabelle and Sebastien are separated. In the meditative last third (almost devoid, unfortunately, of dramatic tension), set a quarter-century later, Amabelle finally makes her peace with her bereavement, and, after an emotional reunion with Senora Valencia, passively accepts the fate she's been prepared for by her contemporaries and forebears alike. Danticat tells this sorrowful tale in rich, lush prose that veers, often very suddenly, between rigidly controlled understatement and feverish emotionalism. Her word pictures are extraordinarily precise and compelling, as in a representative description of fires set to clear harvested cane fields: "The smell of burning soil and molasses invaded the air, dry grass and weeds crackling and shooting sparks, vultures circling low, looking for rats and lizards escaping the blaze." Though it loses intensity as it proceeds, here's more than sufficient passion, color, and empathy to confirm Danticat's high standing among our more gifted younger writers. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Edwidge Danticat

Edwidge Danticat is the author of a novel, BREATH, EYES, MEMORY, and a collection of interlinked stories, KRIK? KRAK!, which was shortlisted for the National Book Award in the US. She was also one of GRANTA's Best Young American Novelists.

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