This is for Historical Tapestry's blog challenge. E is for Edwidge!
A brief note: I drafted this review before the earthquake in Haiti, and now it seems even more important to advocate for this fabulous book. In a testament to the power of fiction (and perhaps the weakness of the human mind), reading the story Edwidge Danticat unfolds makes Haiti's current tragedy a little more real, as her tale grants Haiti just a bit more human depth for those who live so far away. Or at least for me!
This book is beautiful. Stunning. It's a simple story - a woman on the wrong side of a border, at the wrong time in history. But Edwidge Danticat tells the tale of Amabelle, a Haitian orphan working in the Dominican Republic, with such intricate beauty and passion, that it's a page-turning thriller you wish you could slow down to enjoy but can't, not quite. There are a number of themes and motifs that make reading a discovery, a delicious uncovering of meaning and beauty.
The book opens with Amabelle's description of her lover and how he brushes away her nightmares. It's a touching scene, with the vulnerability of her naked body foretelling the danger that lurks, but also promising an amulet of protection. From there Danticat alternates between chapters where Amabelle tells her harrowing story and chapters where she touches her dream world - worlds that, almost inevitably it seems, begin to converge by the end.
The story takes place in 1937 but it doesn't feel that distant - unfortunately, I suppose. The passions and violence that fly into the characters' lives feel too much like something we could read about in the news today. But that is part of the book's appeal. Are we reading about something dead and buried, or a living cowardice? And how do we bequeath the knowledge we have?