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The Farming of Bones Paperback – September 1, 1999

4.5 out of 5 stars 123 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

The almost dreamlike pace of Danticat's second novel (Breath, Eyes, Memory, 1994) and the measured narration by the protagonist, Amabelle Desir, at first give no indication that this will be a story of furious violence and nearly unbearable loss. The setting, the Dominican Republic in 1937, when dictator Trujillo was beginning his policy of genocide, is a clue, however, to the events that Amabelle relates. She and her lover, Sebastien Onius, are Haitians who have crossed the border. Amabelle is a servant to a patrician family, while Sebastien endures the brutal conditions of work in the cane fields. The lovers each have poignant memories of parental deaths, and other deaths enter the narrative early, subtly presaging the slaughter that is to come. Haitians in the DR, always regarded as foreigners, are "an orphaned people, a group of vwayaje, wayfarers." When a military-led assault against them does erupt, it is a surprise, however, and as Amabelle barely survives a massacre by soldiers and an equally bloodthirsty civilian population, the narrative acquires the unflinching clarity of a documentary. In addition to illuminating a shameful, little known chapter of history, Danticat gives us fully realized characters who endure their lives with dignity, a sensuously atmospheric setting and a perfectly paced narrative written in prose that is lushly poetic and erotic, specifically detailed (the Haitians were betrayed by their inability to pronounce "parsley") and starkly realistic. While this novel is deeply sad, it is infused with Danticat's fierce need to bear witness, coupled with a knowledge that "life can be a strange gift" even when memory makes endurance a difficult task. 50,000 first printing; first serial to VLS; QPB selection; rights sold in U.K., Germany, Spain, Holland, Denmark and Finland; paperback rights to Penguin; author tour.Sept.)
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (September 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140280499
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140280494
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #548,987 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on July 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
This short novel was a real eye opener for me, before I picked it up I'd never heard about the government ordered massacre of approx. 30,000 Haitians in the Dominican Republic in 1937. Danticat is truly a gifted writer. The story, told by an orphaned Haitian servant is as lyrical as it is tragic and is definitely worth picking up.
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Format: Paperback
Danticat's debut with BREAT, EYES, MEMORY was more than impressive; it was magical and eloquently resonant. It was the voice we'd all been waiting for. But with THE FARMING OF BONES, what we have is Danticat's finely-tuned clarity of vision reaching the heights of authentic folk art. This novel is unforgettably vibrant in every regard. Entire seminars and workshops have rightfully been organized and presented around this literary icon. Edwidge Danticat is the single topic of scholarly discourse everywhere you turn, whether nationally or internationally. In THE FARMING OF BONES the author has masterfully returned us to a particularly shameful and hideous moment in the history of the neighboring countries of Haiti and the Dominican Republic (sharing the Caribbean island called Hispaniola).
Dominican Dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo in 1937 ordered the slaughter of an estimated (historically documented) 40,000 Haitians and Domínico-Haitians living and working in the Dominican Republic. This historical incident is virtually unknown to outsiders and to most people not of that era. Danticate has thankfully unearthed enough skeletons form the unknown graves to awaken the interest of today's generation, wherever they reside. But this is also a profound love story like no other you've read. The young protagonists Amabelle Desir and Sebastian Onius allow themselves to experience an all-powerful love in a land where love itself had been vanquished by brutal terror and unbridled hatred. This is truly a novel that rewards he reader over and over with the message of a people's suffering and unbelievable courage. If you haven't read this novel, you are denying yourself a genuine literary treasure.
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Format: Hardcover
Edwidge Danticat is a powerful writer who economizes her words but not her emotions. Her descriptions of life love and death are short, and poignant. Amabelle, the main character in this short novel lives in you. She takes you into a complex uncomfortable world where good does not follow good and where your destiny is out of your control. The interaction between the characters is very well presented. It creates tension and anticipation. You know that what is coming is not going to be pretty and you are not disappointed. . This novel is not for the faint of heart. It is a harsh story told in excellent style. Danticat gets an "A" for the Story and an "A+" for her writing. Danticat is already a mature writer who tells the true story of the massacre of thousands of Haitians at the "Bloody River". First, you cannot put the book down till it's over and then, you are so sorry that it has ended. It will be hard for Danticat to best " The Farming of the Bones" This book should be required reading for Haitians and Dominicans. This is History told in a Powerful Novel. P.S. I also loved Esmeralda Santiago's "America's Dream" Andre from Chappaqua, NY
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By A Customer on June 29, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book pulled on so many of your emotions. It made you feel the same terror and passion that many of the characters felt. I found myself feeling emotions at a higher intensity then under normal circumstances. Danticat personified everything. From the Waterfall to the sugar cane with raw emotion. This book was so marvelous. My only regret was that the story did not last longer. The story was woven with the threads of reality which made it so much more horrid. As you realized this terrible acts really did in fact occur. All because of hatred for things you can't or don't wnat to understand. The strengh these poor isolated, cold and abandoned people felt. Danticat opens your eyes to this little known horror very similar in fact to the Holocaust and the modern day Kosovo crisis. Danticat constructed this story beautifully. And it is a must read for everyone who feels anything in their hearts!
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Format: Hardcover
The rhythm of the author's words ring with the cadence of the Caribbean and her voice is clear, wise and poetic. Written in the first person, the young woman, Amabelle, uses simple and deep cutting words to tell her story. Her words are sensual when describing her man, wise as she helps deliver the baby of the wealthy Dominican woman for whom she works as a servant; and deeply cutting as she flees from the slaughter and bears witness to the events going on around her.
I was moved and horrified, and was right there in her emotions as she simply told this story which takes place during the dictator, Trujillo's regime. Dominicans who tried to fight this madness met the same fate as the Haitians as their world, too, crumbled about them. Reading this book, I felt as deeply for the Haitians as I do for the sufferings of the Jews in the Holocaust, or the Cambodians who died on the killing fields.
I must say though, that in spite of the horror, the book is a pleasure to
read because it is a little gem of good writing. It also opened my mind to a period in history that I had no knowledge of and raised the kinds of issues that need exploring.
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