Bitter grounds

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Hyperion, Sep 4, 1997 - Fiction - 445 pages
37 Reviews
Bitter Grounds depicts the luxurious lives of the wealthy in Salvadoran society through the Contreras family, owners of a coffee plantation. Elena de Contreras travels to Europe with her daughter to select wardrobes, spends idle time at luncheons and teas with society friends, and supports her daughter in opening an expensive gift shop in town. Yet when betrayal rocks Elena's protected and pampered world, she reveals an iron will no one had glimpsed in her before. In stark contrast are the lives of the coffee pickers, who must live a hard-scrabble existence in close proximity to the privileged elite. Jacinta Prieto comes from such a background, and as housekeeper to the Contreras family, is privy to their innermost secrets. Jacinta has secrets of her own, including a love affair with a married man whose identity she risks all to conceal. By interweaving the stories of these women, Benitez draws dramatic differences and surprising parallels in their worlds, evoking their passions and revealing their hatreds with amazing empathy.

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Review: Bitter Grounds

User Review  - Alison - Goodreads

The story of people from two families in El Salvador, one wealthy one poor, during times of upheaval, spans different generations. She( the author) to me is an excellent writer with great characters that one can really get into. Read full review

Review: Bitter Grounds

User Review  - Carol - Goodreads

Started out as the historical fiction I thought it would be then got very slow and dull and kind of cheap romance like. Plowed through and finished it but wouldn't give is more than 3 stars. Read full review

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About the author (1997)

Sandra Benitez

"I spent my life moving between the Latin American culture of my Puerto Rican mother and the Anglo-American culture of my father. I was born on March 26, 1941 in Washington, D.C., one of a pair of identical twins. My sister died only a month after our birth. A year later my parents and I moved to Mexico where another sister was born. My childhood and early adulthood were spent in Mexico and El Salvador. When I think of those years, the images that come to me are awash in the color saffron: the Spanish language, the permeable scent of cedar and leather, the shimmering heat, the color of the women in the household, the stories they told, the lives they shared.

"In Latin America, I learned that life is frail and most always capricious, that people find joy in the midst of insurmountable obstacles, that in the end, it is hope that saves us.

"When I became a teenager, I was sent to live for three years on my paternal grandparents' farm in Northeastern Missouri, and this is where I attended high school. I was the first Latina the people there had ever known. Those years live for me in a pale blue light: the thin sheen the setting sun casts on the snow banks, the color of my father's eyes, the doleful bawl a cow makes when it has lost its calf, the back-breaking work that is the farmer's lot.

"In Missouri, I learned that life is what you make it, and that satisfaction comes with a job well done, that in the end, it is steadfastness that saves us."

"I received my undergraduate and master's degrees from Northeast Missouri State University. Over the years I have been an English, Spanish, and Literature teacher at both high school and university levels. I have been a translator, and I have worked in the international division of a major training corporation. I have traveled extensively throughout Latin America. Since 1980, I have been a fiction writer and a creative writing teacher. I have two grown sons and I live with my husband in Minnesota."

"I came to writing late. I was thirty-nine before I gathered enough courage to begin. When I hear other writers talk about writing, I'm amazed by those who say they always knew they had to write. When I was a girl, I never wished to do it. Being a writer was something magical I never dreamed I could attain. But while growing up, I frequently had a book in my lap -- and so I was linked even then to writing and to the spell that stories cast. I didn't know a writing life was lying in store for me. I had to live and grow before I caught the faint call. Since heeding the call, I've worked hard at being faithful to it, for writing is an act of faith. We must keep faith each day with our writing if we want to be called writers.

"Since I've been writing I've searched what's in my heart and its from that core that I write and not from what seems marketable. I am a Latina American. In my heart are stored the stories of my Latin American and Missourian heritage -- of a childhood lived in Mexico and El Salvador. When I write, I have to suppress the knowledge that mainstream America often ignores the stories of 'the other America.' Over the years, I've learned to write from the heart, to persevere despite the setbacks of a host of rejections.

"In the end, I've learned these things about writing: its never too late to begin; we know all we need to know in order to do it; persistence and tenacity will take us all the way. There are angels on our shoulders, be still to catch their whisperings."


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