A Woman of Endurance

Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa. Amistad, $26.99 (352) ISBN 978-0-06-306222-1

Llanos-Figueroa’s intense and bittersweet return (after Daughters of the Stone) traces the gut-wrenching life of a woman who struggles to survive slavery and find trust and love in her community. In 1836, Pola, 18, is captured in West Africa and enslaved on a sugarcane plantation in Puerto Rico. Pola is made a “breeding mare,” in her words, forcibly impregnated many times, her children immediately seized and sold into slavery. In vivid and often graphic detail, Llanos-Figueroa depicts the sadness and inhumanity of Pola’s life: her capture, the “man-beasts” who rape her, and her transfer to a second plantation to recover after having run away from the first and been caught, then beaten nearly to death. Rufina, an enslaved healer, mends Pola’s body, but Pola is combative with and untrusting of other enslaved people. As Pola becomes a maternal figure to Chachita, a starving, orphaned girl roaming outside the plantation, she begins to soften. Others help protect the girl, assistance for which Pola is grateful, but tragedy strikes again. The action builds toward a memorable end as Pola regains her belief in Mother Yemayá, her faith spirit. The restoration of her Yoruba spirituality and her deepened friendships are both touching and emotionally palpable. This harrowing story is hard to put down. Agent: Marie Brown, Marie Brown Assoc. (Apr.)
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