Building Bridges

Building Bridges

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Vanessa's book review

Breathe, Eyes, Memory
By Edwidge Danticat
Reviewed by Vanessa Macayan

In the novel Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat, Danticat is a young author who is of Haitian decent. Her fiction novels give her no boundaries which are partially inspired by the childhood stories she was told growing up. Her stories consist of immigration, greater good for humanities, and stands for the voice of others who can’t tell their stories. In other words, in her novels she speaks for the voiceless children, non-educated, and women.

Breathe, Eyes, Memory
is set in the villages in Haiti, and the streets of New York. The story is told by Sophie Caco, a child born of adolescent violence. Sophie has never seen her mother, except pictures because her mother has abandoned her daughter to go to New York. As Sophie faces struggles having to leave her village in Haiti to live in New York, she soon learns that Haiti is about to face some new struggles of its own.

Sophie is one reason why I love this book. She is a young girl who is mature for her age, especially when she takes the responsibility to teach her illiterate aunt to read. She makes the reader understand her true feelings, especially when trying to understand the adults around her. Beyond Sophie’s story of being a child as a result of adolescent violence, there is more that happens in the novel and Sophie tells us.

Sophie’s mother, Martine, has not been there for Sophie as a mother for her first twelve years. Martine’s relationship with her daughter, sister and mom, Ife, was close, and for years she sends them money and cassette tapes with recorded messages. Sophie then finds out that her mother has requested to have Sophie live in New York. The reader is caught in her struggle as she leaves Haiti to live in New York with her mother who is a complete stranger. It just keeps you wanting to turn the pages to see how the relationships will turn out.

The relationship between Atie and Sophie is very loving. Atie has been very motherly to Sophie. However, their bond is also a strong friendship. The bond between the two is very heart warming. It tears you apart when the two are torn apart, and they have to live in two different cultural environments. Also, the relationship between Sophie and her Grandma Ife is very close. Ife is the grandma who teaches you lessons through her stories, like, Eruzlie, and the lark and the very pretty girl. The sad part is how Ife is planning her funeral. She is a strong, healthy grandma, but she thinks her time is coming.

Breathe, Eyes, Memory is filled with lots of fascinating characters like Marc, and Joseph. Marc is a friendly Haitian man who is befriended in the novel by Martine. He is very old fashion man, and has a lot to say about Sophie growing up. For example, he has a lot to say about Sophie and her relationships with men. However, the most important character in the novel besides Sophie is her mother Martine. You know that the story is being told by Sophie because she writes about the confusion created because her mother abandoned her, and her mother daughter relationship with Atie. We soon learn, throughout the novel, the struggles that Martine faces as a young child having a baby, and the torture she still faces from her past now as an adult in New York.

There are many themes to this novel like immigration, adolescent violence, and the voiceless women, and children. However, Sophie doesn’t direct her attention on one theme or even any of the themes directly. It is simply the life of Sophie.

When Sophie is pulled away from her life in Haiti, Haiti faces some dilemma that is related to the historical event, the Haitian Revolution. During the historical era of the Haitian Revolution, 1791-1804, there was a slave rebellion as the slaves tried to run the white colonists off their land of Saint-Domingue, now known as Haiti. By doing this the slaves were trying to declare independence for the Republic of Haiti. With the intensifying event happening during Sophie’s new life in New York with Martine, Sophie worries about Atie, and Ife’s lives back home.

Even though the story may have taken place years ago, the events of real history get you to think about how the world is today. For example, the racial comments towards a certain ethnicity, the anger to be independent, the distrust and fear of the people around you are shown throughout the story and are relatable to our own lives.
Overall a mother abandoning her baby, and running away from problems to live in New York makes the reader immediately not so fond of Martine’s character. However, if you want to know the truth behind Martine’s story and how it became a life struggle on Sophie growing up to be a young adult, and how the other characters in Breath, Eyes Memory play apart in Sophie’s life you HAVE to read the novel yourself.

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