Set during the political instability of the 1920s and 1930s in the beautiful, but unforgiving landscape, of northeast Brazil, The Seamstress tells the story of Emília and Luzia dos Santos, orphaned sisters raised and trained as seamstresses by their Aunt Sofia in the mountain village of Taquaritinga. Hoping to escape village life, Luzia, kidnapped by bandits, ultimately chooses the life of an outlaw; while Emília impulsively marries into a wealthy Recife family. Readers are pulled into the sisters’ stories as they follow their very different paths, physically separated, but always connected by heart and mind.
There was a large map of Brazil, too. Padre Otto pointed out their state of Pernambuco many times during each lesson. It was near the top of the republic, longer than it was wide. Emília thought it looked like an outstretched arm reaching toward the coast. At the shoulder was the caatinga scrubland – often called the sertão – where water was scarce and only cactus grew. Padre Otto said that runaway slaves and Dutch soldiers and Indians retreating from the coast had all settled there, protected by the harsh desert climate. Emília pictured these dark and light tribes of men living together, spearing snakes and hawks for their dinners. At the elbow of the state was her town of Taquaritinga, set on a small mountain range that was the gateway to the scrubland. At the wrist were the plantations, the stretches of Atlantic forest that had been slashed and burned to grow sugarcane. At the knuckles was the capital – Recife – with its cobblestone streets, its rows of tightly stacked houses, and its immense port that Emília pictured filled with warships and smoking cannons because of the paintings depicting the Dutch invasion she’d seen in one of Padre Otto’s history books. And at the fingertips of her state was the ocean. Emília dreamed of visiting that ocean, of putting her toe in its saltwater. She pictured it as green, dark green, even though the oceans on the map were all painted a powder blue. – from The Seamstress, by Frances de Pontes Peebles
Frances de Pontes Peebles Website