Synopses & Reviews
Julia Alvarez has been called "a one-woman cultural collision" by the Los Angeles Times Book Review
, and that has never been truer than in this story about three of her most personal relationships — with her parents, with her husband, and with a young Haitian boy known as Piti. A teenager when Julia and her husband, Bill, first met him in 2001, Piti crossed the border into the Dominican Republic to find work. Julia, impressed by his courage, charmed by his smile, has over the years come to think of him as a son, even promising to be at his wedding someday. When Piti calls in 2009, Julia's promise is tested.
To Alvarez, much admired for her ability to lead readers deep inside her native Dominican culture, "Haiti is like a sister I've never gotten to know." And so we follow her across the border into what was once the richest of all the French colonies and now teeters on the edge of the abyss — first for the celebration of a wedding and a year later to find Piti's loved ones in the devastation of the earthquake. As in all of Alvarez's books, a strong message is packed inside an intimate, beguiling story, this time about the nature of poverty and of wealth, of human love and of human frailty, of history and of the way we live now.
"In this quirky, familial account of a dotty road trip she and her husband made to attend the Haitian wedding of one of her coffee-farm workers, novelist Alvarez (Saving the World) offers a moving homage to the Haitian people. Although living in Vermont, Alvarez and her husband, Bill, owned a coffee farm in the mountains of her native Dominican Republic and hired Haitians, like the young man Piti, to care for it while they visited back and forth from the U.S. Making good on their soon-regretted promise to attend Piti's wedding, suddenly scheduled for August 20, 2009, the couple rearranged their plans and return to the Dominican Republic to make the long, perilous road trip across the border to what might as well be a faraway country, even though Haiti shares the small island. Along with a guide and other helpers, their pickup truck packed with supplies, the team set off via nearly impassable northern roads to reach the northwest Haitian town of Moustique. The trip involved encounters with Haitians that forced a deepening of understanding between the two parties relations between the neighboring countries have always been tense, Haitian workers discriminated against in the Dominican Republic, and suspicions raw while the wedding among people of rich piety and startling poverty was jarring and affecting. Nearly a year later, after the devastating earthquake struck Haiti, Alvarez resolved to return to Haiti with Piti and his homesick new bride: Alvarez's account sounds an urgent need for a humanitarian reckoning between the haves and have-nots." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Julia Alvarez is the author of nineteen books, including the novels How the García Girls Lost Their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies. A writer-in-residence at Middlebury College, she and her husband, Bill Eichner, established and founded Alta Gracia, an organic coffee farm–literacy arts center, in her homeland, the Dominican Republic.