Winner of the 1998 American Book Award
Spanning the years between 1932 and 1977, this beautifully told epic is set in the heart of El Salvador, where coffee plantations are the center of life for rich and poor alike. Following three generations of the Prieto Clan and the wealthy family they work for, this is the story of mothers and daughters who live, love, and die for their passions.
Bitter Grounds, 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.
Critical Praise for Sandra Bentez:
"Grabs us at the most visceral level...Bentez's clear writing and considerable imagination enable her to make the political personal, luminous, and even comic." --MS.
"An elegant epic...Bentez is a remarkable storyteller." --THE DENVER POST
"Packs and emotional punch...A compelling read." --THE BOSTON GLOBE
--"Explores passion, politics, love, death and betrayal in an intricately plotted mystery...Moving and lyrical." --MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE
From the Publisher