This novel weaves together issues of sexual development, sexuality, and body-image as well as the relationship of political violence to sexual violence. It also looks at family relationships and the possibility of healing even within ravaged histories. The book is beautifully evocative of Haiti and of the experience of immigration. (Sophie recalls the hell of going to school with non-Haitians where "HBO" -Haitian Body Odor-was a common complaint and where one was immediately suspected of having HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). She also remembers the ways a trans-national Haitian community was forged in New York.) The brief section that deals with Sophie's therapy experience barely escapes trendy cliché, but usefully looks at the issue of cross-cultural, multicultural therapeutic methods. Danticat links the political reality of Sophie's mother's rape by one of Haiti's highly feared Tonton Macoute (government death squad members) with Sophie's own troubles, but insists that healing must go beyond political analysis to include personal growth and change, a growth that includes coming to terms with the secrets and trauma of one's own individual and familial history.
Stanford, Ann Folwell
Excerpted, with permission, from the Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database at New York University School of Medicine, © New York University.