The Farming of Bones | Study Guide

Edwidge Danticat

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The Farming of Bones | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


Life in Alegría

Amabelle Désir is a young Haitian-born woman living on the estate of a wealthy family in the Dominican village of Alegría. Her role is to be the servant and companion of the young Señora Valencia who gives birth to twins at the beginning of the novel. Doctor Javier is the village doctor who comes to visit Señora Valencia after the birth, and he learns of Amabelle's parents' past work as midwives and Amabelle's own skill. He suggests Amabelle return to Haiti and work in this field. Señora Valencia's husband Pico is a high-ranking official in the Dominican army. He returns from his post with Señora Valencia's father Don Ignacio who is called Papi to meet his children. En route Pico hits and kills a sugarcane worker named Joël with his car. Papi is very disturbed by this event, but Pico is seemingly unmoved.

Señora Valencia's daughter Rosalinda survives, but her son Rafi dies inexplicably, likely from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) where an infant simply stops breathing. Pico begins to exhibit anti-Haitian tendencies. He becomes angry when Señora Valencia invites Haitian sugarcane workers on the front porch for coffee and shows noticeable discomfort when his wife kisses Amabelle on the occasion of Rosalinda's baptism.

Kongo is the father of Joël who was killed by Pico. He comes to visit Amabelle and tells her that her lover Sebastien who is a sugarcane worker and fellow Haitian immigrant wants to marry her. Doctor Javier comes to check up on Señora Valencia who has not recovered from the delivery. He reveals to Amabelle that anti-Haitian sentiment is intensifying and that she should return to Haiti. Amabelle, Sebastien, and Sebastien's sister Mimi all make a plan to leave the Dominican Republic with the aid of Doctor Javier and the village priests Father Romain and Father Vargas. On the night they are to leave, Doctor Javier, the priests, and Sebastien and Mimi are captured by Pico and his men. Along with Sebastien's friend and roommate Yves, Amabelle decides to leave Alegría in search of Sebastien and Mimi.

The Journey

Yves and Amabelle meet others fleeing the violence in the Dominican Republic on their journey. They join a man named Wilner, his female companion Odette, and a young man named Tibon who has a bodily difference that Amabelle calls "uneven arms." A Dominican woman named Dolores and her sister Doloritas also become Yves and Amabelle's companions on their journey. The group eventually decides that Dolores and her sister are liabilities because they are Dominican, so the two go their separate way. The group eventually reaches the border city of Dajabón, but a riot against Haitians has broken out. Yves and Amabelle are attacked and forced to eat parsley to the point of near suffocation. Tibon is killed in the riot.

Yves, Amabelle, Wilner, and Odette eventually make it to the Massacre River that separates the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and they attempt to cross. As the women are crossing, Wilner is shot by a Dominican soldier. Amabelle grabs Odette to prevent her from screaming and drowns her. Amabelle is badly wounded from the riot and passes out once she and Yves finally make it across the border to Haiti.


Amabelle recovers somewhat after a few days' rest, and she and Yves go to the port city of Cap Haitien where Yves and Sebastien are from. The two stay at Yves's mother Man Rapadou's home. Yves begins to work as a farmer in his deceased father's fields. Amabelle continues her quest to find Sebastien and eventually connects with his mother Man Denise. She tells Amabelle that someone informed her that Sebastien and Mimi were killed.

Amabelle and Yves try to form a relationship and even attempt a sexual encounter, but their guilt is too great. The two live platonically in Man Rapadou's home, and Yves becomes a successful farmer while Amabelle works as a seamstress. Amabelle hears of Father Romain's release from prison and goes to see him in the hope of getting information on Sebastien and Doctor Javier. However, he appears to have developed a mental disorder and is unable to understand her. She gives Father Romain's sister a letter addressed to Doctor Javier for a time when Father Romain is lucid. Amabelle stays in Haiti with Yves until 1961 and sees Father Romain on the occasion of the Dominican dictator Generalissimo Rafael Trujillo's (1891–1961) death which Haitians celebrated with a parade.

Return to Alegría

Amabelle hires a man to sneak her across the border to the Dominican Republic and get her to Alegría. She finds the village much changed, but Señora Valencia is alive, so she calls on her. Señora Valencia at first does not believe it is really Amabelle, but Amabelle proves herself by revealing things only she could know. Señora Valencia takes Amabelle to see the waterfall that Amabelle used to visit with Sebastien and tells her of all that has happened in her absence. Amabelle has the man take her back across the border to Haiti but asks him to drop her off at the river where she meets a homeless man who watches her swim in the nude.

The Farming of Bones Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction


1 Señora Valencia gives birth to Rafi and Rosalinda.

Rising Action

2 Joël and Rafi die.

3 Sebastien asks for Amabelle Désir's hand in marriage.

4 Doctor Javier tells Amabelle to flee the Dominican Republic.

5 Sebastien and Mimi are captured.

6 Amabelle Désir and Yves go in search of Sebastien and Mimi.


7 Amabelle, Yves, Tibon, Wilner, and Odette are attacked.

Falling Action

8 Amabelle Désir spends 24 years in Cap Haitien.


9 Amabelle visits Señora Valencia and returns to the river.

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