Bitter Grounds

Bitter Grounds

by Sandra Benitez

Hardcover

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Overview

This Page-turning Saga Spans The Years between 1932 and 1977, and 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 Parietos clan and the wealthy family they work for, the Contreras, this is the story of mothers and daughters who live, love, and die for their passions. When a letter comes to light that has remained unopened for twenty-six years, its impact resounds in unexpected ways, shattering familial allegiances and romantic ties, forever changing the destinies of all who follow.

Epic in scope, richly steeped in history, Benitez's poetic yet unsentimental novel offers the rewards of all great fiction: it transports readers to another time, another place, and into the lives of characters so real they cannot be forgotten.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786861576
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 09/28/1997
Pages: 464
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.62(h) x 1.37(d)

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.

Reading Group Guide

About this Guide

The following author biography and list of questions about Bitter Grounds are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach Bitter Grounds.

About the Book

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.

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.

1. How do the generations change, in their attitudes, beliefs, aspirations? Consider the world events surrounding these characters during the span of the novel, from 1932 to 1977: How are outside forces (economic depression, war, worker rebellion, civil unrest) reflected in their daily lives?

2. What is the significance of "Los Dos," the daily radio soap opera-both its content and the rituals of its audience?

3. Coffee provides a way of life in El Salvador. What is its role in the lives of these characters, symbolically and literally?

4. There are elements of magic realism to this story. Discuss examples of magic realism and their role in the story: do you think the departure from reality adds to or detracts from your belief in these events? Why do you think the author chose to include them? Other writers (Laura Esquivel, Isabel Allende, Gabriel García Márquez, to name a few) have also used this effect; if you've read their work, compare it to Bitter Grounds, or discuss if or why Latin American writing lends itself to magic realism. Do any North American writers try their hands at it?

5. "In years to come, when she thought of this moment, Elena would know that it was here, at this time-standing around the bend of Cecilia's lake house, the dying sun pouring itself into the blue bowl of the lake-that her life was forever divided into its own before and after." (page 130) Discuss other characters whose lives take equally dramatic and irreversible turns.

6. Bitter Grounds depicts the sharp differences between the lives of the rich and the poor. But the two classes also shared much in common. In what ways were they alike?

7. As the poor turned to the left for help politically, the rich turned to the right, and this polarization eventually led to a tragic civil war. Who do you think is to blame for the failure to find a middle ground?

8. Women writing about women are sometimes accused of doing so at the expense of their male characters. Discuss the role of men in this novel and how you feel they are portrayed.

9. What did you find interesting about mother/daughter relationships in Latin America? And how do these differ, if at all, from the way things work in our country?

10. In the final analysis, who were the winners and who were the losers in Bitter Grounds?

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Bitter Grounds 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
JGoto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Bitter Grounds by Sandra Benitez is a novel that explores the lives of three generations of strong and passionate El Salvadoran women. Each of the three sections of the book is devoted to a different generation, and each focuses on two women, one from the wealthy upper class and one a servant from the poor working class. Benitez' clear and unsentimental style makes for an engrossing read that shows the relationships between women and their daughters. She presents a vivid picture of the disparities between the rich and poor, and the political and social upheavals of twentieth century El Salvador. Recommended.
rachelprz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was so sad when I finished this book. What a wonderful story. It pulls you right in. The cultural details were amazing.
Two2dogs More than 1 year ago
I LOVED THIS BOOK! I MET A LADY FROM EL SALVADOR THE WEEK I STARTED READING THIS BOOK, SHE ASKED IF SHE COULD READ IT AFTER ME, I GAVE HER THE BOOK AND WE DISCUSSED EL SALVADOR, MEETING AN ACTUAL PERSON FROM THIS WAR TORN COUNTRY MADE THE STORY MORE REAL TO ME.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
A fabulous story, bringing recuerdos to anyone who was raised in a third world country (with or without radio or telenovelas in the middle of real life). An excellent book, moving characters, and brilliantly written. Everyone should read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Truly amazing tale, full of all emotions that last a long time. I read this book over a year ago and words still sound on my head, and from time to time, a just smile and think what a wonderful story this was..... 'that precise moment, that could change my future, and the future of the children of my children' ... something along the lines, as the main character is about to enter a room and find her husband cheating on her with her best friend... amazing story! I visited El Salvador to see some of the places where the story unfolds.