Ottawa Valley Moms is pleased to present the book club selection for September 2012 chosen by none other than our own OVM, Nina!
Sandra Benitez has spent her life moving between the Latin American culture of her Puerto Rican mother and the Anglo-American culture of her father. Her father worked for the U.S. State Department and was transferred when Sandra was young to El Salvador and this is where Sandra lived for most of the next 20 years. In Latin America, she learned that life is frail and capricious; that people can find joy in the midst of insurmountable obstacles; that, in the end, it is hope that sustains.
, Sandra Benitez’s American Book Award-winning novel, chronicles the lives of three generations of women in war-torn El Salvador. After losing most of their family during the massacres of 1932, Mercedes Prietas and her daughter Jacinta go to work for Elena de Contreras and her family, who own enormous coffee and cotton plantations. During the next 40 years, the women of both families help each other endure the many hardships that come their way. Benitez manages to portray both the poor and the rich women in this book as complex, sympathetic characters. Like the heroines of Los dos, their favorite radio soap opera, the women in this novel suffer heartache, unrequited love, betrayal, and the loss of loved ones.
One by one, all of Jacinta’s family members are killed amid the country’s political turmoil. Elena’s heart breaks when she discovers her best friend in bed with her husband on the eve of their daughter’s marriage. The Contreras family struggles to retain control of its land during the late 1970s government-mandated redistribution of wealth. Through it all, the women sustain each other, even after circumstances separate them: “Sometimes, late at night or, most often, very early in the morning, when Jacinta lay in her cot in the little room she shared with Rosalba, her mother stirred within her. This was not craziness, but a consolation. To feel her mother’s flesh, her bulk, shored up along the banks of her own bones and flesh.” Bitter Grounds is a thoughtful, vivid account of the lives of some very resilient women.