Friday, September 27, 2013

On Re-reading A Wedding in Haiti: The Story of a Friendship by Julia Alzarez

For a book discussion I read A Wedding in Haiti: The Story of a Friendship by Julia Alvarez a second time. I don't often re-read books, for there are so many that I have not yet read, but it is a pleasure I will get five more times in the next year. Our church book club voted for six books that I helped nominated last June.

Upon re-reading, I found my general view did not change from the review of A Wedding in Haiti which I wrote last year, but I noticed many wonderful character details and lovely quotations that I did not remember. It was like seeing a movie for a second time. I think I concentrated more on learning the story first time through and enjoyed the descriptions and the language more in the second pass.

I had thought that Alvarez wrote much about her aging parents in this book, but I see now that her account of their story and their current (2010) situation was brief but powerfully moving. Likewise, neither of the trips was long in duration, and her account was economical, but the last impression was of a trip of epic importance.

The underlying challenge that Alvarez offers readers can be summed up as "once you have seen, what is your obligation." In a world filled with people in need, not just in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, determining how we will meet our obligations is a task easily sidestepped with excuses. Alvarez frets that she does not do enough. Do many of us do even a portion of as much as the author and her husband have?

The general consensus of the book discussion group was that A Wedding in Haiti is a good introduction to Alvarez, and several expressed an interest in reading her novels and poetry. The most agreed criticism was that the black and white photos were too small to really show whatever it was that the author wanted to illustrate.

I have five more books to re-read. I hope that I benefit as much as I have with the beautifully written A Wedding in Haiti. Still, next year I may try to nominate from my list of books not yet read.

Alvarez, Julia. A Wedding in Haiti: The Story of a Friendship. Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2012. 287p. ISBN 9781616201302.


linda in chicagoland said...

I have to lead the discussion of this book on Monday, Oct 28. I enjoyed the book but can't find a discussion guide or any sample questions to help me along.

Any suggestions?

ricklibrarian said...


We did not have a set list of questions. I recommend examining the cast of characters, trying to imagine their lives and motivations. We also discussed what we knew of Haiti and what moral obligations we have.

Good luck,