I finished this book last night and let myself think on it over night before posting a review. First things first, I found this book to be brilliant.
I honestly don't know that much about Haiti as a country or a culture. I of course know about the earthquake that struck the country in 2010. It was all over the U.S. press and friends of mine had fundraisers and donations drives. I also had friends in the State department who chose to volunteer to go to Haiti to do what they could. One of my friends still won't talk about being down there in the aftermath and said that he would never forget what a luxury it is to have hot water. It's sad to see that after the initial few months of assistance by our country and others, Haiti is still stuck trying to rebuild (see
Reading this book let me glimpse upon the inner workings of a family that had only women left to usher in the new generation. The character of Sophie will break your heart again and again throughout this book.
Told in the first person in four parts, we follow Sophie from the age of 12 until she I think based on the timeline of the story is 20 possibly 21.
When the book begins Sophie is a 12 year old girl happily living with her Aunt (Tante Atie) in Haiti. She knows that her real mother lives in New York, but sees New York and her mother as a far off place she will never see again. That all changes when her mother sends for her. Part two picks up when Sophie is 18 about to go to college, part three shows her with her newborn daughter in Haiti, and part four shows her back in the United States.
The flow of the book was perfect after the first couple of chapters. I thought that the book really started to get going after Sophie's mother sends for her. The description of Haiti, the smells, colors, and food made me feel as I was right there. I initially called this a memoir since the way that Edwidge Danticat writes it feels as if she is relaying something truly personal that may have happened to her and is using Sophie as her stand-in so to speak.
Reading about the inner workings of those that live in Haiti and worked the sugar cane crops was fascinating. Also reading about how the relationship between mothers and daughters was more important than a relationship that a woman had with any man that came after.
Some of the plot points were shocking (warning there is discussion of rape and self-harm in this book) and often saddening. Reading how Sophie felt apart and different from others in the U.S., how many Haitians used bleach to lighten their skin, frank discussions about rape, murder, and death made this whole book an engrossing read.
I think of this book as the Haitian version of the Joy Luck Club since we ultimately do focus on Sophie and the relationship that she has with her two mothers (her aunt and her real mother).
I have a favorite passage in the book which I loved, but I can't share it because it would spoil the ending to those of you that may want to read it. I loved everything about the words that were written, the poetry of them, the sense of loss and longing that I got as I read. This is definitely going to be another go to the bookstore and buy permanently book.
I did go to her author page on Amazon,(see Edwidge Danticat's Amazon Author Page) and was floored to see how many books she has written. I am definitely going to have to go and read some of her other works since I loved this book so much.