A Decent Woman by Eleanor Parker Sapia

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About A Decent Woman (from Amazon):

Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century: Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past, but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her twenty-five year career as the only midwife in La Playa. Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children, who marries an older, wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. A crime against Serafina during her last pregnancy forever bonds her to Ana in an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal and preserve Serafina’s honor. Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of these two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.

About Eleanor Parker Sapia (from Amazon):

Puerto Rican-born novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s life experiences as a counselor, alternative health practitioner, a Spanish language social worker, and a refugee case worker, inspire her passion for writing. When Eleanor is not writing, she facilitates creativity groups, and is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago a second time. A Decent Woman is her debut novel. Eleanor is the mother of two adult children, and she lives in West Virginia.

You can connect with her on her website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

My Review:

I give A Decent Woman by Eleanor Parker Sapia 5 out of 5 stars.

A Decent Woman has so many elements that I love. It’s historical fiction, but it has a literary feel – a story that takes place across many years. I was immediately drawn in by the descriptions of the world, and felt like I was right there with the characters. And even though the characters lived in the past, they were so relatable.

Above all, the themes resonate. This is a story about women, about standards of decency and indecency imposed upon them, about sisterhood, about rivalry created by men, and about the injustices our gender faces.

It reminded me so much of something going on right now in my own community here in Oklahoma City: the Daniel Holtzclaw trial. Holtzclaw is a former police officer who stands accused of 36 counts of felony sexual battery, rape, forcible oral sodomy and stalking against 13 black women ranging in age from 17 to 57. He deliberately targeted women from a certain area of town, many of whom had former drug and prostitution charges. He was counting on no one believing them if they came forward. And it was a safe bet: an inordinate amount of the coverage has focused on the victims’ pasts, and in spite of being a case with tremendous intersectionality (race, class, AND gender), the Associated Press only just picked it up two days ago. (Where New York Times and Washington Post are, I have no idea.) I think we know there is still great injustice in the world; I think we forget that it can happen here in the United States.

It reminded me of an article I read recently (though I can’t find it at the moment) that talked about women trusting the strength of their bodies during birth. I’ve been thinking about how we all-too-often shun what comes naturally to us in favor of what someone else recommends because of their education.

It reminded me of the unspoken rivalry between married women and single women, and how as a single woman, when your friends marry, there is a shift in the relationship. You are gradually phased out in favor of married friends, perhaps because those friends are more relatable, perhaps because in their minds you pose some sort of threat. Either way, our relationships shift … because of a man.

Yes, I got all of that out of A Decent Woman, and doubtless it will make you think. It’s a beautiful story that makes another time and place come alive, and it resonates. Boy, does it ever resonate.

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