Daughters of the Stone: A Novel [NOOK Book]


Finalist for the PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship for Writers

It is the mid-1800s. Fela, taken from Africa, is working at her second sugar plantation in colonial Puerto Rico, where her mistress is only too happy to benefit from her impressive embroidery skills. But Fela has a secret. Before she and her husband were separated and sold into slavery, they performed a tribal ceremony in which they poured the essence of their unborn child into a very special stone. Fela keeps the stone...

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Daughters of the Stone: A Novel

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Finalist for the PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship for Writers

It is the mid-1800s. Fela, taken from Africa, is working at her second sugar plantation in colonial Puerto Rico, where her mistress is only too happy to benefit from her impressive embroidery skills. But Fela has a secret. Before she and her husband were separated and sold into slavery, they performed a tribal ceremony in which they poured the essence of their unborn child into a very special stone. Fela keeps the stone with her, waiting for the chance to finish what she started. When the plantation owner approaches her, Fela sees a better opportunity for her child, and allows the man to act out his desire. Such is the beginning of a line of daughters connected by their intense love for one another, and the stories of a lost land.

Mati, a powerful healer and noted craftswoman, is grounded in a life that is disappearing in a quickly changing world.

Concha, unsure of her place, doesn’t realize the price she will pay for rejecting her past.

Elena, modern and educated, tries to navigate between two cultures, moving to the United States, where she will struggle to keep her family together.

Carisa turns to the past for wisdom and strength when her life in New York falls apart.

The stone becomes meaningful to each of the women, pulling them through times of crisis and ultimately connecting them to one another. Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa shows great skill and warmth in the telling of this heartbreaking, inspirational story about mothers and daughters, and the ways in which they hurt and save one another.


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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429918527
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2009
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 609,051
  • File size: 421 KB

Meet the Author

Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa was born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York City. She taught in the New York City school system before becoming a young-adult librarian. Her first novel, Daughters of the Stone, was a finalist for the PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship for Writers. Dahlma has been named the winner of both the Best Female Author and Best New Author awards by the Go on Girl! Book Club. She has also won the Bronx Council on the Arts ACE and BRIO awards, as well as a Literary Arts Fellowship. She lives in the Bronx.

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Read an Excerpt

Daughters of the Stone

A Novel

By Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2009 Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-1852-7

1 Arrival

A gray braid falling over each shoulder, Tía Josefa stuck her head out of the window of Las Agujas, the embroiderers’ cabin located just behind the main plantation house. The wagon returning from town swung around the main house and came to a final halt in the batey of Hacienda Las Mercedes, a sugar plantation near the northern coast of Puerto Rico.

She recognized Romero, the mulatto mayoral, sitting high next to the driver. His shadow crawled over the supplies that filled the wagon behind him. The man wore all black, even under the scorching sun. The brim of his black hat, tilted forward, hid his eyes, leaving only his pointy chin and beak of a nose visible. The bony shoulders under his black cape looked nailed to the blue sky beyond. He gripped his whip, handy, ready.

In her day, Tía had seen many black people come and go, but there had been no new ones in a long time. She knew Don Tomás had recently acquired a new parcela and needed more hands to work it into cane fields. One thing Tía knew for sure, where there was more work to be done, it would be black hands that would do it. So she stretched her skinny neck to take a good look at the men hoisting the monthly supplies— sacks of flour and rice, bolts of cloth, sides of smoked beef— out of the wagons.

Then came the rest of the cargo, frightened young boys, stone-faced men, and hesitant women. Almost as an afterthought, they poured out into the courtyard, brown and slow, like molasses, the human purchases of the day. Tía searched for Fela, the tall woman she’d heard about and couldn’t put out of her mind. She was the last to descend, a young woman in her early twenties. There was something familiar about the girl. But Tía couldn’t place it and was too drawn to the scene to think about it for very long.

There was much activity in the yard—m en unhitching horses, curious children scurrying about, Romero assigning quarters to the new slaves. The young woman eyed her surroundings from her height of over six feet. The others were herded into the cabins that stretched out beyond the wagons. Fela began to follow when Romero, the overseer, blocked her way and pointed his whip to Las Agujas, where she would be living. The woman just stared at him.

"Vamos, muévete," Tía Josefa heard Romero command. "¿Qué? ¿No me oyes? Are you deaf as well as dumb, or just another stupid negra sucia?"

Fela examined him as though he were an unreliable animal. She didn’t move. Romero stood directly in front of her and shouted his command into her face. But the woman Fela held her ground.

Never known for patience, Romero snatched his whip and swung it overhead. But his hand froze in midair, the whip swinging impotently in the morning breeze.

"¡Maldita sea!" he growled.

Fela still hadn’t moved. She showed no sign of fear or even apprehension. Romero’s arm remained frozen in position. He looked from his arm to the whip and back to his arm. Confusion and then rage twisted his face.

Finally, Fela turned and walked in the direction he had indicated. As soon as she moved away, his arm dropped. By the time the mayoral recovered from his moment of confusion, Fela was making her way up the slope that led to the main house.

Romero gathered himself to his full height. Adjusting his hold on the whip, he was about to advance on her retreating figure when a commotion suddenly filled the batey.

The horses had spooked and reared, toppling supplies that were still being unloaded. Bags of beans exploded under the trampling hooves. Sacks of flour burst into clouds of white, covering the yard in a layer of ghostly powder. Children ran. Men cursed. Drivers struggled to get the teams of horses under control. Frantic voices filled the air.


Men ran to help.

"¡Mira, nena . . . !"

"¡Ven aquí!"

Women pulled children out of the way.


Warnings rang out as huge containers toppled over and spilled corn meal, olives, and oil on those standing nearby.

"¡Ay, Dios mío . . . !"

A man was pinned under the weight of several huge sacks of rice.

Romero glared at the pandemonium and then back at the woman who was now beyond the whip’s reach. "¡Carajo!" he yelled.

He wound his whip and hooked it onto his belt. Before turning to the commotion, he propelled a long stream of spittle in the direction of Fela’s retreating figure.

As Tía watched this scene, her breath caught at the audacity of the young girl. She could almost feel Fela’s and Romero’s wills clashing in the air overhead and had braced herself for the outcome.

Fela approached Tía’s window and stopped just on the far side. For a moment, the old woman got a glimpse of the sadness that collected in the outer corners of Fela’s eyes and weighed them down. But immediately the girl’s face shut tight against the old woman. Her eyes, shiny as steel doors, were dressed in armor. Such stubbornness was familiar to Tía, like a long- forgotten melody of her youth. A finger of cold fear crept into Tía’s heart. She knew that a slave, any slave, would have to yield or be broken.

Tía wondered how long this young woman had been a slave and how much longer she would be able to stand so tall and distant. For black people, pride was a sin punishable by death.

The two women stood at opposite sides of the window as each examined the other. Tía went around to the door and motioned Fela inside, holding out her hand in welcome as the girl entered the room.

"Entra, entra m’hija."

Fela walked in, squeezing by the older woman and avoiding her welcoming arms.

. . .

Don Tomás, son of Don Aurelio and master of Hacienda Las Mercedes, stood at his second- floor rear window and watched the action below. The tip of his cigarro burned orange as he watched. He inhaled the acrid smoke, having noted the palpable tension between his overseer and the new woman. He’d heard the neighing horses and screaming women and Romero’s curses. He took note of all the activity, but the tall black woman who walked away from it all with not as much as a halting step or a backward glance captured his attention. She never broke her stride, ignoring the danger coiled and growing inside Romero, moving on as if she lived on another plane altogether.

He had bought this woman because of her hands. The auctioneer said she had magic fingers, and his wife, Filomena, insisted she needed another woman in her taller. He had granted his wife’s wish, barely glancing at the woman before paying the man and moving on with the rest of his more important purchases. But now, now he watched her as she towered over everyone, her back stiff and shoulders pushed back, breasts held aloft. She looked straight ahead as she made her way up the incline toward him, to Las Agujas, her torn rags barely covering her body. Despite her position, she carried herself with no less dignity than his wife in her silk and lace gowns.

Don Tomás drew on his cigar and let out a satisfying stream of smoke. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, slipped his hand down the front of his breeches, and let it linger there. He heard footsteps in the hallway and quickly adjusted himself before turning to face his approaching wife.

Excerpted from Daughters of the Stone by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa.
Copyright © 2009 by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa.
Published in September 2009 by Thomas Dunne Books.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.


Excerpted from Daughters of the Stone by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa. Copyright © 2009 Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 23, 2009

    touching the soul

    as a daughter, mother and grandmother this beautiful written novel touched me, i can read it again. to explore the relationships among women across the cultures. we all have our stories and i felt this one included mine - coming from the german culture, this just shows how women in this world feel and think. thank you for writing this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A must read for every mother and daughter. Recommend for Book clubs and intellectual discussions.

    I never imagined a book could be this inspiring. It allows you as a reader to think of your family stories. We all have them and don't realize how powerful and interesting they can be to others. "Daughters of a Stone" was well written, inspirational, interesting, and powerful. It describes five generations of very strong women living in their times of change, tragic events, romance, heartache, survival and family. My favorite character was Elena. She was the strongest and bravest in my opinion. Elena shows strength as a daughter and mother in many tragic events of her life. But I'm sure all who read this wonderfully written novel will have their favorite pick for various personal reasons.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2013


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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2013


    She made a nest and curled up.

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  • Posted December 13, 2012

    Highly Reccomended

    The story begins with Fela in the mid-1800s sold into slavery on a sugar plantation in Puerto Rico. Before she left Africa she and her husband performed a tribal ritual in which the essence of their unborn child was put into a special stone. This stone then becomes the focus for the entire book. The book is separated into five parts beginning, as mentioned, with Fela's story which is then passed on - along with the stone, to her daughter, Mati. From Mati the stories and the stones go to Concha, and then to Elena, and finishes with Carisa who leaves America to discover her roots. The stone is what binds the women to each other, this magical stone that represents the unborn, their entire ancestry, every story of each woman, their hopes and their dreams. Within their stories there are many breaksm it often feels very clinical when the reader only gets small amounts of information. But taken as a whole it's filled with ancestry and is a beautiful story and celebration of women, mothers and daughters in particular. This final story sadly also is, in my opinion, the least interesting, I was too distracted wondering if this was Dhalma's story or a character, and that was not as enjoyable to me as it was reading the stories of Carisa's ancestors. Still, I can appreciate the stories as a whole, and can appreciate the stone for what it represents to each woman. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking forward to reading a book that is set place in the olden days, and someone who likes heart warming stories. I hope every other ready gets to experience what I did while reading this book, although it is complicating while the author switched characters, the book is a great, inspirational novel and I would read it again.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2012

    Loved these stories

    While reading this book I thought of my family and some forgotten stories. The author/storyteller brought the characters to life for me.

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  • Posted August 11, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:



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  • Posted September 7, 2010

    Beautiful Family Saga

    This lyrical novel tells the story of the strong, gifted women of an Afro-Puerto Rican family. Spanning five generations, we first meet Fela, a West African woman brought to Puerto Rico whose body is enslaved but whose soul can never be captured. She gives birth to her daughter Mati on the banks of the river, leaving the earth with a gift before joining her beloved Imo in the afterlife. Mati, born with unique healing powers, eventually gives birth to Concha, a daughter who will not appreciate her until it is too late. Concha's daughter Elena experiences both tragedy and triumph after leaving to New York to start a new life. Finally there is Carisa, born to Elena in Puerto Rico but raised in New York. With Carisa the novel comes full circle as she explores her roots and chronicles the stories of those who came before. Llanos-Figueroa has written a captivating story of womanhood, faith, and the enduring power of family. The prose is beautiful and the imagery vivid, calling to mind magical realist master Isabel Allende. Highly recommended.

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  • Posted February 28, 2010

    A Must Read!

    A wonderful read. You will fall in love with each character. Although, I did have my favorite. Very rich in substance. This story confirms the strength of Afro-Puerto Rican women over the generations. However, this is all of our stories of the strength women all over the world have inside of them to survive. We are a sisterhood and are all connected. You can feel the love with each page you read! The extra bonus is you can see a glimse of the rich history of the past of Puerto Rico. A must read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2012

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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