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Song of the Water Saints: A Novel Hardcover – February 26, 2002

3.8 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In Nelly Rosario's beautifully written family saga Song of the Water Saints, Graciela, an unwilling mother and a halfhearted wife, spends her days imagining sea voyages and tracing shapes in the clouds. She is so restless, yet so trapped in Dominican village life, that she wakes at night to rub camphor oil into her itching feet. Finally, a fortuneteller advises her to "stop living between nostalgia and hope." It is up to Graciela's daughter and her children to make use of the freedoms that eluded Graciela, whose life was shaped not only by poverty but also by the brutal U.S. military occupation of the Dominican Republic, the brief flowering of a belle époque in the 1920s, and the 30-year military dictatorship of Trujillo. With an almost painterly attention to foreground and background, Rosario stresses the importance of these events without letting them overshadow her richly imagined world. Song of the Water Saints is an unusually assured debut from a promising writer. --Regina Marler

From Publishers Weekly

Four generations of Dominican woman are poetically evoked in this impressively assured first novel. The vibrant, superstitious culture of the Dominican Republic enlivens a tale that favors style over plot. As a restless young woman, Graciela is photographed in a compromising position with her first love by a yanqui man; though she marries the boy, Silvio, he never quite commits to her and, after he dies barely two years later, she never really gets over him. Her new man, Casimiro steady and a good father to her difficult daughter, Mercedes still cannot tame her. Her restlessness makes Graciela leave her little family; guilt and loneliness cause her to return after six weeks, but with a problem that ultimately ends her life. Teenaged Mercedes takes over the local grocery and marries Andres, a green-eyed dwarf. Decades fly by, and Mercedes and Andres follow the dream of a better life in the U.S. with their son and granddaughter. Though the language is gorgeous and the setting vividly rendered, the story suffers from a lack of direction and, after Graciela's death, character development is all but abandoned in the rushed final third of the book. The complex politics of the island are addressed, but only perfunctorily. Rosario has the potential to become a major novelist; she's one to watch, and this work is worthwhile for the voluptuous images alone. (Mar.)Forecast: Junot D¡az, Cristina Garcia, Julia Alvarez and Edwidge Danticat supply blurbs, and Rosario was named a Village Voice "Writer on the Verge." All of that will help sales, along with national print and radio features and a six-city author tour.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon (February 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375420878
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375420870
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #946,882 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Ay si. Nelly can write. She is, by far, one of the best Latina novelists to hit the scene in a generation. From the opening pages we are immediately granted the pleasures and pain of three generations of Dominicanas. Their world, not always happy, not always easy to understand, unfolds through Nelly's poetic prose. Whether the reader is following the "ichy feet" of Gabriela, or grandma Mercedes lost in Nerba Yol, the reader cannot help but identify with these well-constructed characters. If you like a multi-generational story that isn't made for Disney, this novel is for you.
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Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. Though written in prose, there was so much written UNDERNEATH all of the words it was like reading poetry. It was beautifully elequent and the way she tied all three generations together was excellent. The women in this story were so intense and full of spirit, and selfish too. Both sexually liberated and aware, and intent on getting what they want out of life. These were not women to give in to anyone. I was exposed to a whole new striking culture, and I can't wait to read what else Nelly has to say.
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Format: Paperback
SONG OF THE WATER SAINTS is yet another stellar contribution to the fast-growing field of works by young escritoras dominicanas [Dominican women writers] of superior caliber and grace. Nelly Rosario, obviously undaunted by the number of novels that readily plunge the reader into the immigrant experience, adds an exciting new dimension. She clevery and artfully interweaves the delicate threads of myth, history, longing, and pain into a passionate tale of three generations of bold, intrepid Dominican women in search of their respective destinies. The interconnected stories of Graciela, Mercedes, and Leila are unforgettable. Rosario's irresistible prose reads like epic poetry; her style evokes imagination and a deep resonance of remembrance. This is a well-written novel that undergirds our continuing faith in the future direction of Latina Literature. Very Highly Recommended.
Alan Cambeira
Author of AZUCAR! The Story of Sugar (a novel)
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Format: Hardcover
Nelly Rosario has managed to do what so many other Latino writers fail miserably at: utilizing her heritage and knwoledge of her culture to write mesmerizing and inspiring prose. Rosario does not resort to caramelized stereotypes like so many mediocre writers who have found fame and fortune by explaning Latinoness to white readers via degrading and flat fictional recreations of their family's experiences in this country.
Instead, she digs into the rich history of the Dominican Republic to explore the complex and intertwined relationships that defined the island nation at the turn of the century when the U.S. invaded. Vibrant and determined women leap off the page as full characters, not leftovers from their men's or family's imposed notions of who they are.
A truly gifted writer, Rosario is assured a significant place in literarture for years to come.
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Format: Hardcover
I think this is a mesmerizing story. Any Latin women, especially Dominican women, must have this book! I hope it gets translated into Spanish soon. I believe Rosario is a great storyteller. She shows how complex is to live in two worlds: from the Dominican Republic to Manhattan. She tells the story and struggles of three generations of Dominican women.
She is new in this novel writing world, but she is good. Her book is full of feelings, emotions, passion and adventure. As a Dominican, I feel identified with her story. I'm truly waiting for her next novel, and I have trying to make all my friends to read this book.
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