Heart-wrenching tale of family, spirituality, and repression. Beautifully told in three parts of differing first-person perspectives.

The story centers around two sisters, Bibiana and Belonísia, on a plantation in northern Brazil. It's set past the abolition but amidst the cursed era of "tenant farmers". Plantation owners couldn't keep slaves anymore, but they still "needed" them. A tenant farmer is allowed to live on the land as long as they work the fields every day. They can build houses, but only of mud, nothing too substantial. And they may grow food in their backyards, but the owner will take a cut, since it's growing on "their" land. They don't make any wages.

When the two sisters are still very young, their curiosity brings them to find a glistening knife among their grandmother's things. Something compels them to taste the metal and they both end up cutting their tongues. Though one is just wounded, the other's is cut off. With one of them mute, the other becomes the voice for the both of them. Their bond deepens and they learn to interpret each other by the most minute signs. Except, we as the reader don't know who is mute and who still has her voice for the entire first part of the book. This is exceptionally well done, and truly brings a special perspective to the narrative.

All our perspectives are female. And as such, we get a taste of growing up in a male-dominated society. Men ask for girls to come live with them in their huts. And the girls will be expected to cook and clean and take care of the garden and birth children and raise children. There is domestic abuse all around. Husbands with alcohol problems who turn violent and beat their wives, their kids. Men who rape both mother and daughter.

Bibiana and Belonísia's father, Zeca Chapéu Grande, is a healer and spiritual leader for their plantation. He hosts the festive Jarê rituals at their home. These religious practices have become a beautiful amalgamation of African deities and entities representing indigenous American culture. It made me realize how, in a similar way, my mother is also a spiritual someone in her community. She teaches meditation classes, yoga, and dabbles in naturopathy. Friends come to her to talk about their struggles in life because she's refreshingly good in truly hearing someone.

We slowly come to realize that we're witnessing the growth of a communal culture amongst the people on the plantation. Throughout many setbacks and injustices, I became almost defensive of the way of life and the relative peace these people enjoyed. I became upset when they were threatened with eviction because I too felt these people had the most right of anyone to live on, but more importantly, with the land. There was so much tender care for life and a balance to their cohabitation with nature. The way the ending creeps up, with the force of greed, authority, and capitalism, broke me a little bit.

The prose of this story is truly beautiful. There's tenderness, mystery, and meaning.

My father would turn to me and say, "the wind doesn't blow, the wind is the blowing," and this made sense to me. "If the air doesn't move, there's no wind, and if we don't keep moving, there's no life." He was trying to teach me.

Some time after the drought ended, babies began popping up like bracket fungi on the rotting trunks of the floodplain, now transformed into marshland.

He didn't thank me. He was a man, after all, why should he be grateful? That's what went through my mind.

The next day, Tobias left the house earlier than usual. I stayed in bed. I heard the door close behind him, then his horse trotting off into the distance. I got up and started my day. I watered the garden. I cooked the breadfruit. I delighted in the smells of my cooking. I wondered about Maria Cabocla, present in my thoughts and prayers before I'd fallen asleep. I prayed that she and her children were well, that she and her husband were getting along. So that God might tame that husband of hers, I'd encourage Maria to talk to my father; many had been cured of drunkenness by his elixirs and prayers. There was an encantado for every problem, there was an encantado to remove that vice from her husband. Maria seemed older than Bibiana and myself. She wasn't quite as old as my mother, but she'd told me that her eldest child was aged eleven. If Maria and I stood side by side, folks would mistake her for my mother because of how worn-down she looked.

I wondered if it would have been better to have died the day I left my parents' house. To have fallen off that horse, to have broken my neck. Because no good ever came of my lamenting. I knew I'd always bear the shame of having been so naive, falling for Tobias's flattering sweet talk, no different from that of so many other cunning men who'd carry young women away from their parents' houses to turn them into slaves. Making their lives hell, hitting them till their blood, or their very lives, poured out, leaving a trail of hatred on their bodies. Complaining about the food, the mess, the poorly behaved children, the weather, the house falling apart. Introducing us to the hell that so often is a woman's life.

My mother looked over at her granddaughter and said, "I wonder who this one took after! I'll never forget what you girls put me through, having to rush to the hospital." Her words upset Bibiana, but I laughed quietly, thinking to myself how a life could be repeated like an old story.

In the straw bag she'd woven for her son in her spare time, Donana put some jerky, a container of manioc flour, and a small bottle of honey for the journey. Maybe, before leaving, Zeca kissed his mother's face or Carmelita's forehead, maybe he embraced his brothers.

With every heavy rain, a wall would crumble, until at last the wind finished the job. Those walls of earth, made from the mud of the Água Negra, became earth once again. Grasses and tiny flowers flourished in the humidity of the dew and of the rain that fell when it was the will of the saints. I was attentive to what was happening. I knew that none of it would come back. I watched as though under a spell as time advanced like a horse, wild and indomitable.

Your youngest daughter asks when her father is coming back. You tell her he's not coming back. She starts crying, and yet you don't comfort her. If you had been the one to go, your husband wouldn't let the children become weak. He'd teach them to move forward by finding a purpose in their work, in the unending struggle. Then you stroke your girl's head, you lift her to your lap and promise her something that's within reach, maybe an ice cream or a bag of popcorn next time you go to town. But you won't tell her that he'll come back; it would be too cruel. Even a girl that young shouldn't cling to a promise that can never be kept.

You never understood how your sister could live in that chaos of motor cars and buildings and people. Any little thing required money there, the slightest thing. But out in the country, the food was right within reach. If the drought or the floods wrecked your crops, you could eat whatever was spared. You could make food from manioc flour or gather jatoba seeds to make crêpes. In the city there was no land to dig into, nowhere to experience that lucky omen of humid air foretelling rain.

And the sounds, the sounds of animals, of rustling leaves, of flowing water, those sounds kept reverberating inside of you. During your daytime duties. During your light sleep at night. You felt that the sound of the world had always been your voice.

Not even this news—that the man she held responsible for her husband's murder was dead—brought her any peace. The emptiness she was feeling seemed to expand with time, opening a pit inside of her that only got deeper. The hardest truth for her to face was that nothing, not even winning the dispute for the land, would bring her husband back.

Zezé, Inácio, and Belonísia devoted their weekends to building the family home. Bibiana and Salu pitched in by making lunch for everyone. There was a sense in the air of new beginnings, like the feeling of planting in the fields after a drought or flood had come to an end.