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Bitter Grounds

New or Used: $21.95
New or Used: $21.95

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About the Author

Sandra Benitez's first novel was A Place Where the Sea Remembers. She grew up in El Salvador, attended high school and college in Missouri, and now divides her time between Edina, Minnesota, where she teaches creative writing, and Mexico.


"In Salvador, coffee steams while it sits," warns the epigraph to this piercing tale of two Salvadoran families. In El Salvador, coffee provides the way of life. Savored by both plantation owners and poverty-stricken pickers, the brew is as much an elixir as it is a divider of the social classes. This addictive novel from Benitez (A Place Where the Sea Remember) follows three generations of the Parietos clan and the family they work for, the Contreras, through the knotted complexities of Salvadoran power and politics from the 1930s to the '70s. Two women are the catalysts: Mercedes Prieto, a pacifist Pipil Indian and wife of a poor coffee picker, survives the destruction of her village and the kidnapping of her son by the National Guard; Elena de Contreras, matriarch of the coffee plantation, harbors a wounded and bitter heart. They, and the children they bear, are locked together by love and loyalty as well as torn apart by betrayals as they are involved in the country's struggles. For all its compassion and anger, Benitez's saga is surprisingly free of propaganda: both classes are capable of deceit and greed, fidelity and kindness. Her Spanish-sprinkled, elegant prose is mesmerizing in its simplicity and frankness. (Sept.)

"Grabs us at the most visceral level . . . Benitez's clear writing and considerable imagination enable her to make the political personal, luminous, and even comic." --Ms.

"An elegant epic . . . Benitez is a remarkable storyteller." --The Denver Post

"Packs an 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

Centering on a letter that remains unopened for 26 years, Benítez's impressive saga follows the intertwined lives of three generations of Salvadoran women, the very rich and the very poor, friends and mothers and daughters, mistresses and servants‘and, finally, oppressors and victims and guerrillas. Their lives are played out against the backdrop of the ever-present radio soap-opera serial and the violence and corruption of the police state and civil war of 20th-century El Salvador. Benítez's prose is rich and fluid; one tastes and smells the world of Jacinta and Magda and their mothers and daughters. Like her first novel (A Place Where the Sea Remembers, LJ 9/1/93), this work is another welcome addition to the growing body of Latina literature.‘Mary Margaret Benson, Linfield Coll. Lib., McMinnville, Ore.

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