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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Edwidge Danticat's first collection of short stories, Krik? Krak!, was shortlisted for the National Book Award in 1995, making her the youngest writer ever nominated for that honor. Her first novel, Breath, Eyes, Memory, which was a recent Oprah pick, established her as not only a remarkable young talent but also a new and important voice for Haitian Americans. Now, with her latest, Danticat turns to the past, to locate and give a new voice to a moment in history that is an all-but-forgotten holocaust. Her powerful new novel focuses on the 1937 massacre by Dominicans of the Haitians living within their borders.
It is 1937, and Amabelle, orphaned at the age of eight when her parents drowned, is a faithful maidservant of many years to the young Dominican wife of an army colonel. Amabelle's lover, Sebastian Onius, is a field hand, an itinerant sugarcane cutter. They are Haitians, useful to the Dominicans but haunted by the knowledge that they are not entirely welcome. Rumors say that in other towns, Haitians are being persecuted, even killed. But there are always rumors.
Amabelle and Sebastian decide they will marry and return to Haiti at the end of this cane season. But what should be the hope-filled dawn of their new lives together quickly becomes a sudden fall of darkness in the terror and madness of an ordained "ethnic cleansing" ordered by Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo. Betrayed by their inability to speak unaccented Spanish (specifically, their inability to pronounce "parsley"), those who have long lived among the Spanish-speaking Dominican population, as wellasthe impoverished itinerants, are sacrificed to preserve the purity of Dominican culture.
In this, her second novel, Danticat re-creates a vanished world, memorializing these victims of nationalist madness who have long been ignored by the spotlight of world history. The Farming of Bones is about love, fragility, dignity, and the only triumph possible for the persecuted and the innocent: to endure. With quiet lyricism and atmospheric, at times dreamlike prose, juxtaposed with the passion and violence inherent in this epic tragedy, Danticat weaves a tale of insufferable loss and illuminates the hearts and souls of the Haitian people whose way of life was so undervalued. Realizing the promise evident in her two previous works of fiction, The Farming of Bones is a story told in an astonishingly mature voice with the assured hand of a major writer.