BEHIND THE MOUNTAINS by Edwidge Danticat


Age Range: 9 - 14
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A 13-year-old Haitian girl describes, over the course of five months, her life in Haiti and then in New York as she, her mother, and her brother join her father, who left Haiti years before. Celiane loves her life in the mountain village of Beau Jour; she is near her grandparents, the mountains agree with her, and she is the recent recipient of a journal from her teacher—because she is such a good writer. The only hole in her life is that left by her father, who sends a cassette tape addressing each family member in turn, but from whom she feels increasingly estranged by time and distance. When the bus she and her mother are riding in gets blown up in pre-election violence—the year is 2000, and Jean-Bertrand Aristide is running for re-election—the effort to reunite with her father moves into high gear. Her Tante Rose, a nurse, pulls some diplomatic strings, and suddenly they are all together in New York. This is Danticat’s (After the Dance, p. 782, etc.) first novel for children, and it shares with others that have gone before it a tendency to write down to the audience. The diary entries are by and large flat; Celiane writes of the violence in curiously disengaged tones, considering that she and her mother are victims. Likewise, when the narrative moves to New York, the upheaval this creates for the family is related from a distance, despite the supposed current nature of the diary: “It wasn’t anything [Papa] said, just the way his face looked, tightly drawn and strained. Perhaps we, especially me, were going to be more of a burden to him than he had first thought.” It is unfortunate that there are so few children’s novels of Haiti that this offering naturally begs comparison to Frances Temple’s electrifying A Taste of Salt (1992). This, alas, is a pale successor. (Fiction. 9-14)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-439-37299-2
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2002


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