I'm always looking for a good romance novel for Cheryl and stumbled on this first novel by Frances de Pontes Peebles—The Seamstress. The Chicago Tribune said, "It's rare to find a first novel by a writer barely out of a workshop who isn't looking inward. But The Seamstress, a glorious narrative production by recent University of Iowa Writers' Workshop graduate and Chicago resident Frances de Pontes Peebles, turns our eyes toward the country of the writer's birth—Brazil—and its barren northeast states and carries us back in time to the early 1930s. The story we fall into, as in John Gardner's notion that reading a good novel is like falling in a continuous waking dream, gives us as good as we can get."
From the author's website:
Pernambuco, Brazil, 1928 - As seamstresses, the young sisters Emília and Luzia dos Santos know how to cut, how to mend, and how to conceal. These are useful skills in Brazil's backcountry, where land barons feud with outlaw cangaceiros, trapping innocent residents in the crossfire. Emília is a dreamer who wants to escape her hillside village. While the quick-tempered Luzia—scarred by a childhood accident that left her with a deformed arm — finds her escape in sewing and in secret prayers to saints.
When Luzia is abducted by a group of cangaceiros, the sisters' quiet lives diverge. Emília stumbles into marriage with a wealthy stranger and moves to the sprawling city of Recife. Luzia learns to survive in the unforgiving scrubland, and begins to see the cangaceiros as comrades, not criminals.
As Emília navigates the treacherous waters of Brazilian high society, she sees the country torn apart after a bitter presidential election. Political feuds force Luzia to make unexpected alliances and endure betrayals that threaten to break the cangaceiros apart. But Luzia overcomes time and distance to entrust her sister with a great secret—one Emília vows to keep. And when Luzia's life is threatened, Emília will risk everything to save her.