Study Guide

Breath, Eyes, Memory Book 1, Chapter 1

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Book 1, Chapter 1

  • A young Sophie returns home from school with a handmade Mother's Day card that she wants to give to her Tante (Auntie) Atie. It has a dried yellow daffodil taped on the front.
  • We learn that Tante Atie's illiterate—she worked in the fields as a child and didn't have the chance to go to school. But she feels it's too late for her to learn.
  • Chabin, the bòlèt man, comes to sell Atie a chance in the daily lottery. Atie says that she never wins but puts in her sister's birthday as her number all the same.
  • Though it's clear that Tante Atie loves Sophie, she tells the girl that the card really belongs to Sophie's mother and won't accept it. She tells Sophie that they'll send it to her.
  • But Sophie doesn't really remember her mother. She has only a picture of her—some anxiety-filled dreams about her trying to take Sophie away from Haiti.
  • Sophie and Atie join their neighbors in an outdoor potluck feast. The tradition began when neighbors would help each other clear the land for planting, and then eat together at night.
  • Monsieur Augustin (the school teacher) and his wife act as hosts. Madame Augustin asks Atie about Martine, Sophie's mother. She noticed that a large package was delivered at Atie's house.
  • Atie's shaken, but avoids the question. We learn that Martine usually sends two audio cassettes and money to Sophie and Atie.
  • Pretty soon, Atie's flooded by questions from the village women about Martine. They assume that Atie will also leave, like Martine, to live in New York.
  • Chabin speculates that Martine's sending for her child to join her. The women are very happy about this, since they believe that children should live with their mother.
  • Sophie's upset by this idea. Monsieur Augustin walks them home after the potluck and we can see that there is (has been) a relationship between him and Atie.
  • He tells her not to be sad that Sophie's leaving to join her mother. Atie is upset that Monsieur Augustin told his wife this secret.
  • After Monsieur Augustin returns to his house across the street, Atie watches him prepare for bed with his wife. She's clearly upset by their intimacy.
  • Back inside the house, Atie and Sophie fight about "the secret" that got out at the potluck. Atie explains that Sophie's mother simply said she wanted her daughter back and sent the ticket.
  • Atie confesses that she was going to pretend the trip to New York was just a visit. She believed that once Sophie settled in, she would forget all about Haiti and her auntie.
  • Sophie is terribly hurt, but she sneaks the Mother's Day card under Tante Atie's pillow anyway.

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