Earlier this month I got a simple email message from my niece Anna: "I just read The Seamstress. Order it." So, I did.
The novel, by Frances De Pontes Peebles, is epic--641 pages--but is worth every glorious minute. Occasionally, after spending a significant amount of time with a book I am truly sad when it finally comes to an end (ie. The Count of Monte Cristo). I feel this way about The Seamstress. I will miss it.
With passionate and lush writing, Peebles tells the story of two sisters living in Brazil during the political upheaval of the 1930's. While both women manage to escape the poverty of their orphaned childhoods in the mountains of Brazil, they lead drastically different adult lives. In spite of this, they are tied together by the bonds of sisterhood and their training as expert seamstresses.
Emelia and especially Luzia are unique heroines. Peebles created fascinating and complex women characters who are at once strong and fragile, righteous and wicked and nearly always sympathetic. The women are so real and deal with the entire spectrum of human emotion, it is at times hard to believe they are fictional characters.
While the images of violence are often brutal and barbaric, Peebles writes without vulgarity or unnecessary sexual content.
I often give a book five stars upon reading it and then change my mind the more I think about the book and deconstruct it's themes, characters and plot (ie. Ahab's Wife). At this moment, only minutes after reading the final pages, I unabashedly award five stars to The Seamstress.