Study Guide

Breath, Eyes, Memory Book 3, Chapter 23

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Book 3, Chapter 23

  • Next morning, Sophie discovers that Atie hasn't been home all night and that her grandmother's worried. Atie returns with Louise, who quickly takes her little pig and goes home.
  • Sophie's confused, but Atie explains that Ifé planned to kill the pig. Sophie offers to buy it from Louise, but Atie's upset by this—it would mean that Louise could buy her ticket to America.
  • Atie uses leeches to suck the blood from the lump in her calf. Sophie gets sick while watching the process.
  • Later, Atie and Sophie go to get some food for a special meal that Sophie wants to cook. They pass through the family cemetery on the way.
  • Atie explains that their surname, Caco, is the name of a red bird. She explains that when it dies, the Caco bird has a rush of blood to its neck and wings that makes it even redder.
  • On the way to the vendor's house, she hears men in the fields singing a song about a woman who flew at night without her skin.
  • Her husband damaged the skin left behind to discipline her, but it ultimately kills her.
  • Sophie remembers how to cook the meal, even though she hasn't done it since she lived with her mother two years before.
  • Ifé compliments Atie on having taught Sophie to cook so well. Atie's surprised by the kind words from her mother—but leaves with her notebook to have a reading lesson with Louise.
  • Ifé gives Sophie a lesson in supernatural hearing. She tells Sophie that she can hear a girl going home, although the girl is far away.
  • She names the girl and says that she's hurrying home before she gets in trouble (she's been out with a boy). Unfortunately, the girl's mother is waiting at home to "test" her.
  • Sophie reflects on the Haitian mother's obsession with virginity.
  • She recounts her mother listening to her peeing in the bathroom, to make sure it wasn't too much or too loud (meaning loss of virginity).
  • She recalls the rules: take small steps, no horseback riding, no splits, no showing off of the body. Sophie also remembers a horrific story about a poor girl who approached her wedding bed without her virginity. Spoiler alert: her husband mutilates her and she dies.
  • She also remembers how her mother would tell her stories while she was testing her, to take their minds off of what was going on.
  • Sophie says she would "double" during the tests—kind of like finding your happy place and staying there until the unpleasantness was over.
  • She talks about doubling throughout Haitian history, how that must have been a method used by the presidents so they could condone rape and murder and yet still be "family men."
  • Sophie asks Ifé why they tested their girls. Ifé explains that it is to protect them from shame and the girls from a life of loneliness if they're found to be "impure."
  • Sophie tells Ifé that the tests were a violation of her body, and that she has nightmares about it. Ifé basically tells her to get over it—that she has to "liberate herself."
  • She wants Sophie to know that whatever she and her mother did, they thought it best for their children.
  • Sophie decides it is time to return to her husband. Ifé apologizes, in a way, for the pain the tests have caused the women of the family.
  • Sophie holds the statue of Erzulie from her grandmother's room and cries.
  • In the morning, she goes jogging, and can see that her behavior puzzles the people she passes.

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