Bitter Grounds

Front Cover
Hyperion, Sep 4, 1997 - Fiction - 445 pages
3 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. Their lives are a stark contrast to 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 hatred with amazing empathy.

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Review: Bitter Grounds

User Review  - Ana - Goodreads

Loved, LOVED this book. Truly and honestly portrayed what life was like at that time in El Salvador. Sandra Benitez is an amazing writer! This book stays with you long after you've read the last page. A must read for anyone!! Read full review

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User Review  - rachelprz - LibraryThing

I was so sad when I finished this book. What a wonderful story. It pulls you right in. The cultural details were amazing. 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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