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The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat

The Farming of Bones (original 1998; edition 1998)

by Edwidge Danticat

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944239,210 (4.01)118
Title:The Farming of Bones
Authors:Edwidge Danticat
Info:Penguin Books (1999), Paperback, 312 pages
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The Farming of Bones by Edwidge Danticat (1998)



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The Farming of the Bones by Edwidge Danticat was a surprising and eye-opening read for me. My first clue that this was going to take me somewhere that I would be uncomfortable to read about was when I realized the setting of this book was the Dominican Republic in 1937. Then I read of Generalissimo Trujillo, who I knew as the dictator who was responsible for the deaths of over 50,000 people. Yet this story opened gently, told in the words of the main character Amabelle Desir and gives no hint of the violence that is to come.

The story overall is subtle and understated and builds slowly. This author writes of horrific events that came to be known as the Parsley Massacre in a sparse way yet vividly conveys the shock, disbelief and fear that was felt as Amabelle stumbles through this time of terror, searching for her loved ones and making her escape to Haiti.

The Farming of the Bones is a story of loss and grief. I felt that this was a very personal novel for the author as it projected a feeling of giving evidence or bearing witness. For me, I found this story to be a hauntingly beautiful written example of man’s constant inhumanity to man. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Dec 10, 2015 |
The imagery is a surprise and delight. If I were to quote all the phrases that caught my imagination, this review would be too lengthy.
Amabelle moves cautiously thru life since her parents' drowning when she was 8, and the first portion of the book reflects her distance, her yearning for her family's love. Still young, she is dependent on the approval of her employer (she works as a house maid in Dominica), and follows the lead of her lover. This all changes suddenly when the Dominican army (and civilians) began slaughtering all Haitians in their country. With a few other Haitians, she escapes across the river, back to Haiti. This section has some horrendous descriptions of the butchery that went on. Once across the river, time in the novel is compressed, and years pass. The novel shows more of Amabelle's reflections. Here, too, I find many sections I would quote. For this section alone, I will keep this book to reread and reflect on her words. "I did not want you to think love was not scarce because it is, that it flowed freely from everywhere, or that it was something you could expect without price from everyone." (p.208) "It is perhaps the great discomfort of those trying to silence the world to discover that we have voices sealed inside our heads, voices that with each passing day, grow even louder than the clamor of the world outside." (p.266) ( )
  juniperSun | Dec 22, 2014 |
I have to take a test on this for English "orz
  ku. | Sep 20, 2014 |
Amabelle is a Haitian woman living in the Dominican Republic at the time of the conflict between the two countries in 1937. She was orphaned when her parents were swallowed by the river separating the two countries. She was taken in by a wealthy Dominican family, but it is no longer safe. She and her fiancee Sebastien are separated by the war. Yves helps see her back to safety in Haiti. Over the years, she clings to the hope of a reunion. I won't say more for fear of giving away the plot. This is a well-written novel that is touching. The author does a wonderful job building characters and in description. A very touching story. ( )
  thornton37814 | Dec 30, 2013 |
Gutwrenching. ( )
  50MinuteMermaid | Nov 14, 2013 |
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Jephthah called together the men of Gilead and fought against Ephraim. The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan leading to Ephraim, and whenever a survivor of Ephraim said, "Let me cross over," the men of Gilead asked him, "Are you an Ephraimite?" If he replied, "No," they said, "All right, say 'Shibboleth.'" If he said, "Sibboleth," because he could not pronounce the word correctly, they seized and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. 40,000 were killed at the time.
---Judges 12:4-6
In confidence to you, Mètres Dio, Mother of the Rivers.--Amabelle Désir
First words
His name is Sebastien Onius.
I did not want you to think love was not scarce because it is, that it flowed freely from everywhere, or that it was something you could expect without price from everyone. (p.208)
It is perhaps the great discomfort of those trying to silence the world to discover that we have voices sealed inside our heads, voices that with each passing day, grow even louder than the clamor of the world outside. (p.266)
It took more than prayers to heal me after the slaughter...I wept all the time...Ii took a love closer to the earth, closer to my own body, to stop my tears. (p.272)
...this child will be yours...like watercress belongs to water and river lilies belong to the river. (p.9)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140280499, Paperback)

In a 1930s Dominican Republic village, the scream of a woman in labor rings out like the shot heard around Hispaniola. Every detail of the birth scene--the balance of power between the middle-aged Señora and her Haitian maid, the babies' skin color, not to mention which child is to survive--reverberates throughout Edwidge Danticat's Farming of Bones. In fact, rather than a celebration of fecundity, the unexpected double delivery gels into a metaphor for the military-sponsored mass murder of Haitian emigrants. As the Señora's doctor explains: "Many of us start out as twins in the belly and do away with the other."

But Danticat's powerful second novel is far from a currently modish victimization saga, and can hold its own with such modern classics as One Hundred Years of Solitude and The Color Purple. Its watchful narrator, the Señora's shy Haitian housemaid, describes herself as "one of those sea stones that sucks its colors inside and loses its translucence once it's taken out into the sun." An astute observer of human character, Amabelle Désir is also a conduit for the author's tart, poetic prose. Her lover, Sebastian, has "arms as wide as one of my bare thighs," while the Señora's complicit officer husband is "still shorter than the average man, even in his military boots."

The orphaned Amabelle comes to assume almost messianic proportions, but she is entirely fictional, as is the town of Alegría where the tale begins. The genocide and exodus, however, are factual. Indeed, the atrocities committed by Dominican president Rafael Trujillo's army back in 1937 rival those of Duvalier's Touton Macoutes. History has rendered Trujillo's carnage much less visible than Duvalier's, but no less painful. As Amabelle's father once told her, "Misery won't touch you gentle. It always leaves its thumbprints on you; sometimes it leaves them for others to see, sometimes for nobody but you to know of." Thanks to Danticat's stellar novel, the world will now know. --Jean Lenihan

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:08 -0400)

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The Farming of Bones begins in 1937 in a village on the Dominican side of the river that separates the country from Haiti. Amabelle Desir, Haitian-born and a faithful maidservant to the Dominican family that took her in when she was orphaned, and her lover Sebastien, an itinerant sugarcane cutter, decide they will marry and return to Haiti at the end of the cane season. However, hostilities toward Haitian laborers find a vitriolic spokesman in the ultra nationalist Generalissimo Trujillo who calls for an ethnic cleansing of his Spanish speaking country. As rumors of Haitian persecution become fact, as anxiety turns to terror, Amabelle and Sebastien's dreams are leveled to the most basic human desire: to endure. Based on a little known historical event, this extraordinarily moving novel memorializes the forgotten victims of nationalist madness and the deeply felt passion and grief of its survivors.… (more)

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