"Before you, Bella, my life was like a moonless night. Very dark, but there were stars, points of light and reason. ...And then you shot across my sky like a meteor. Suddenly everything was on fire; there was brilliancy, there was beauty. When you were gone, when the meteor had fallen over the horizon, everything went black. Nothing had changed, but my eyes were blinded by the light. I couldn’t see the stars anymore. And there was no more reason, for anything."

~ Edward Cullen

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Review: Breath, Eyes, Memory

Title: Breath, Eyes, Memory
Author: Edwidge Danticat
Pages: 236
Rating: 4/5

At an astonishingly young age, Edwidge Danticat has become a writer who evokes the wonder, terror, and heartache of her native Haiti—and the enduring strength of Haiti's women—with a vibrant imagery and narrative grace that bear witness to her people's suffering and courage.

Set in the island's impoverished villages and in New York's Haitian community, this is the story of Sophie Caco, who was conceived in an act of violence, abandoned by her mother and then summoned to America. In New York, Sophie discovers that Haiti imposes harsh rules on its own.

At the age of twelve, Sophie Caco is sent from her impoverished village of Croix-des-Rosets to New York, to be reunited with a mother she barely remembers. There she discovers secrets that no child should ever know and a legacy of shame that can be healed only when she returns to Haiti—to the women who first reared her. What ensues is a passionate journey through a landscape charged with the supernatural and scarred by political violence, in a novel that bears witness to the traditions, suffering, and wisdom of an entire people (oprah.com).

I picked up this book for two reasons.  One, it was shorter and I needed something to get me back on my feet after having the baby that wouldn't overwhelm me, and two I thought the cover was intriguing.  However, I'm not sure why I thought this book was a memoir.  It wasn't until I opened the book and started reading that I realized this was actually a novel (I guess that the fact it said "A Novel" under the title didn't click with my overworked brain).  Despite my surprise, I still very much enjoyed this book.

I'll be honest in saying I don't know much about Haiti or its culture.  I'm aware that they are an impoverished country and many travel through the perils of the sea to arrive on our shores in Miami.  I was not aware of the violence throughout the country.  But, this is why I read.  To expand my mind and learn new things so I am not dumb to what is going on in the world around me.  It is for this reason that reading is important to me.

Breath, Eyes, Memory tells the story of Sophie Caco starting at the age of twelve when she is sent to New York to live with her mother.  Once in New York, Sophie begins to find out the secrets of her birth,  including the reason why her mother screams out in agony every night as she sleeps.  The story itself is haunting.  It gets in your mind and weaves itself throughout your body so that you feel every bit of Sophie's pain and memories.  It is an unforgettable journey to Haiti, a trip that is both troubling and healing.  It is because of these feelings that I recommend this book to all readers.

On top of all this, Danticat's writing is exquisite.  Her storytelling is moving and poetic, and creates a multitude of feelings for the reader.  Each line sticks with you, telling and re-telling the stories of Haitian women everywhere:
"I come from a place where breath, eyes and memory are one, a place from which you carry your past like the hair on your head. Where women return to their children as butterflies or as tears in the eyes of the statues that their daughters pray to (pg. 234)."

This is a beautiful journey, and one I am very glad I decided to take it.

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