The Farming Of Bones Summary

Edwidge Danticat

The Farming Of Bones

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The Farming Of Bones Summary

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The Farming of Bones(1998), Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat’s historical fiction, centerson the 1937 massacre of Haitians living in the Dominican Republic. Amabelle Desir, separated from her lover, Sebastien Onius, as the massacre breaks out, searchs for news of his fate. Told in first-person narrative from Desir’s perspective, a central theme is the importance of remembering the past. Danticat was shocked when she visited the Dominican Republic and found that the events of the 1937 massacre had been all but forgotten; thus, the book frequently shows Haitian workers making a point of remembering and retelling their experiences, for fear of the names and faces of their loved ones being lost forever. Widely acclaimed upon its release, it was especially praised for Danticat’s ability to make history come alive with her vivid and powerful writing.

Amabelle Desir, a Haitian midwife, is called to deliver the premature baby of Senora Valencia, the daughter of the powerful Don Ignacio. Ignacio, the owner of the estate on which she lives, is Dominican, and most Haitians are second-class citizens. Valencia gives birth after a difficult labor, and is shocked when she has twins. The daughter has much darker skin than the boy, and Valencia makes a racist comment that the child will be mistaken for one of Valencia’s people. Doctor Javier, the local doctor, arrives to examine the twins, and warns that the girl, Rosalinda, is very small, while the boy seems healthy. Senor Pico, Valencia’s husband and a high-ranking military official, rushes home and names the boy Rafael, in honor of Dominican leader Rafael Trujillo. An estate worker, Luis, recounts the journey he, Don Ignacio, and Senor Pico took back to the estate, speeding and hitting a random man who fell to his death along the way. While Luis’ wife, Juana, listens, Amabelle is worried for her boyfriend, Sebastien. A fellow Haitian, Sebastien immigrated to the Dominican Republic following a hurricane and is a mill worker for Don Ignacio. Eventually, Sebastien returns and tells Amabelle that while he is fine, his friend Joel was hit by the car and fell to his death, and his friend Yves barely escaped the same fate. This causes Amabelle to flash back to the traumatic death of her parents, who were swept away by a raging river while attempting to return home from the market. After seeing her parents die, the young Amabelle nearly committed suicide, but was rescued by locals.

Sebastien returns from a trip to visit Kongo, Joel’s father and a respected elder. Mimi, Sebastien’s sister, reveals that the community knows Pico killed Joel, and they are furious, while rumors are that Haitians are being rounded up and deported by the government. Don Ignacio asks Amabelle to set up a meeting with Kongo to sort out Joel’s death. That night, Senora Valencia is horrified to find that her son Rafael has died in his sleep. Father Vargas, a local priest, comes over to bless the child’s body, Pico buries his son alone, and Amabelle meets with Kongo, who refuses any sort of compensation from Don Ignacio, including offers to pay for Joel’s funeral.

Talk spreads of the Dominican army killing all those who pronounce the word parsley in the Haitian way rather than in Spanish. This will come to be known as the Parsley Massacre. When Doctor Javier confirms these rumors, he and Father Vargas arrange trucks to take Haitians across the border. Sebastien and Mimi leave on the trucks, while Amabelle stays back to care for Senora Valencia. When she heads to the church later, she finds it deserted. She finds Kongo in a nearby village and learns that Dominican soldiers intercepted the trucks and took the Haitians prisoner. Sebastien’s friend Yves joins Amabelle as they head for the border. They encounter Odette and Wilner, a traveling couple, and Tibon, who recently escaped death by jumping off a cliff to avoid machete-wielding villagers. The group of five heads for the border.

They reache the town of Dajabon, where they are attacked by a pack of Dominican youth riled up by Trujillo’s visit. Tibon fights back and is killed, while Amabelle and Yves are badly beaten and have parsley shoved down their throats. Odette and Wilner help them find refuge in an abandoned house. After time to recover, they head to the river, but are met by a group of soldiers. Wilner is shot and killed as he tries to cross the river, and Odette struggles to stay afloat. Amabelle makes the crushing decision to force her below the surface so the soldiers will not see them, and Odette drowns. Amabelle and Yves make it to Haiti and are taken to a refugee camp where Amabelle is able to recover. Yves takes her to visit his mother, Man Rapadou;she takes Amabelle in. Amabelle falls into a routine, becoming close to Yves and his mother and helping around the house. Eventually, she seeks out Sebastien and Mimi’s mother to tell her the story, and accepts that Sebastien is gone. Amabelle remains on Yves’ growing estate, but decides one day to return to Alegria in the Dominican Republic to find Senora Valencia. She meets Rosalinda, who brings her to her mother. Senora Valencia is shocked, having believed that Amabelle had been killed. The two grieve together for all that was lost, and Amabelle chooses to return to Haiti, knowing that Sebastien will always be with her in her heart.

Edwidge Danticat is a critically acclaimed Haitian-American novelist and short story writer. Many of her works explore elements of national identity, diaspora, and mother-daughter relationships. The author of eight novels, in addition to memoirs, children’s books, travel books, and short stories published in The New Yorker and The Washington Post, she is also the writer and narrator of two independent films. She won the American Book Award for The Farming of Bones, as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award for her 2007 memoir, Brother, I’m Dying. Most recently, she was shortlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction for her novel Claire of the Sea Light. She is a strong advocate for issues affecting Haitians at home and around the world.