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When the Ground Turns in Its Sleep
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When the Ground Turns in Its Sleep

3.42 of 5 stars 3.42  ·  rating details  ·  97 ratings  ·  31 reviews
The award-winning debut novel that ?brings to mind the atmosphere and tension of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.?( Katharine Weber, author of "The Little Women")
Nitido Aman knows he was born in Guatemala, but he doesn't know why his family left. Raised in the States by his immigrant parents, they never talked about it. When Nitido loses his father to Alzheimer's disease, his desp...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published December 1st 2007 by Riverhead Books
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The author has a unique writing style and the story had a lot of potential, but I found the last third of the book to be disappointing.
“On the mountain in places like Naranjo, it's completely different. The ground turns in its sleep, stretches, and comes awake after dark.”
This books tells the story of Nítido Amán a young Guatemalan man who was born in Guatemala but raised in the United States and who's parents would never talk to him of their life in Guatemala. Frustrated after his father dies, and his mother is settled in a new home, Nitido decides to return to Guatemala in search of his roots, and to piece together the little...more
Deborah Clearman
Since I have lived in and written extensively about Guatemala, I approached Sylvia Sellers-García’s debut novel with great interest—and it did not disappoint. WHEN THE GROUND TURNS IN ITS SLEEP richly evokes the characters, atmosphere, and tragic history of its setting. The premise of the native son returning to a country that he doesn’t know is given an unexpected and original twist when Nítido decides to play along with the deception that he is Río Roto’s (English translation—Broken River) new...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
A well-researched, compelling story of a young man who returns to a remote Guatemala village in search of his roots and his parent's roots, and to confront the country's violent past. He's mistaken for the local priest, but plays along for a good long while. He is met by silence, things that still cannot be spoken but are neither forgotten. Sellers-Garcia does a good job portraying what that feels like, when a whole town has been traumatized. The book is a bit too philosophical in parts, more co...more
Because I have such a keen interest in Guatemala and wanted to understand more about the civil war that took place after I lived there, I bought this book. The story had great potential but I am sorry to say that I just didn't enjoy it. I lived among the Mayan indians and to me, it didn't capture any of my memories. I read it more than 3/4 through and then thought, what is the point? I Put it on my night table thinking I would get back to it. I seem to have this belief that once I start a book i...more
emi Bevacqua
Like the main character Nitido, I too was born in a foreign country, raised in the States, returned to my country of birth as an adult to work and learn and struggle with the language. But in my case I was totally aware of my shortcomings and on the alert for any cultural mis-steps I might make. Nitido bumbles all over Guatemala ethically, linguistically and seems never to have a clue or any morals. I was so flabbergasted with the liberties this character took in his host country, and so bored b...more
Anne Dodge
Feb 17, 2008 Anne Dodge rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
No, I am NOT willing to sell/swap my autographed copy!! And congratulations to Sylvia for writing such an evocative book. It really does bring to life a place that to me is very foreign. And there's something very mysterious about the book - even with all the narratives laid out in front of me, I still wonder what makes the characters connect to (and misunderstand) one another. Another way to say it is that the book does a great job of capturing the ambiguity of personal histories and the weight...more
My main interest in reading this book was mainly to get a glimpse into the everyday life of a small village in Guatemala, and not so much for the story itself. I did find some insights into daily life, and some sad reminders of Guatemala's tragic and violent past.

As for the story itself, it was working so hard to be philosophical and atmospheric that I found it tiring to sort through random tangents and ramblings to find the plot. I also did not find the main character terribly sympathetic; he...more
It was slow going, but I finished. It was a good story-line that was, at times, puzzling, tedious, and over nuanced. The author spends much time evaluating the pose or tone or facial feature of one speaker without drawing any conclusions or speculating. I felt that it was left to the reader to draw many conclusions that later proved incorrect. I felt that for a man to be so curious about his heritage as to up-root himself and live in a foreign environment, while admitting that as a youth he disp...more
This would be a great book if you could fully suspend your disbelief. If a man came to a town and pretended to be a priest, holding confession and praying for the deceased, he'd either be killed or imprisoned when it came out that he was a fraud.

It was interesting to read about the culture of the people in the town where he resided-- where words were so carefully chosen and many things were left unspoken.

The book dragged on in some spots and in other chapters the action raced across the page. I...more
Wilkinson Public Library
Set in the United States and Guatemala, this book traces a man's quest to discover his family's history.

From the publisher: "In elegant, hypnotic prose, Sylvia Sellers-Garcia delivers a story of divergent cultures and divided identities, of conflicts between generations and civilizations, of mourning, and finally, of healing."

Here is a link to a review from BookPage:
Jennifer Kim
This books makes me feel like a failure, but my time is too precious to waste on a book. I usually try to read at least up to page 50 before I quit, but this book, this book is so boring, that I'm quitting before page 20.

It won awards and I picked it up for $4.99, but if the book is dismally boring, it's definitely not a bargain. I also hate giving less than 3 stars, but I really have to be honest with myself with this book.

Stay away.
This book dramatizes the experience of immigration from Guatemala during the civil war (approx 1980-2000). It's really well-written, though it has a lot of characters and the intrigue of the story was kind of hard to follow. The best thing about it was that it made you think about language, and memory, and travel, in new ways. It brings a faraway place (Guatemala) very close.
I enjoy reading books set in Guatemala. This was a sad story full of painful secrets. The main character Nitido goes to Guatemala to try to discover his roots. He is mistaken for a priest but goes along with the error. It seems everyone has secrets. The answers are a long time coming but I was immersed in the characters lives all the way.
Nitido returns to his native Guatemala after growing up in the U.S. in order to learn more about his heritage. Through a series of misunderstandings, he is assumed to be the village's new priest. As the book unfolds, he discovers much about his identity, personally and culturally, as well as the nature of memory, secrets, and healing.
I've been reading a lot of books by Latin American authors and with those settings. I hadn't read anything about Guatemala and had high hopes for this book based on some reviews. Unfortunately, it just didn't come through for me. Although there was a mystery in the town, I found the story dull and the writing overdone.
I didn't make it through this one before I had to return it to the library. I was initially swept up and intrigued by the mystery and atmosphere of the story. But I started to get the feeling that nothing would be resolved so I got frustrated. I guess I'll never know.
I really enjoyed reading this book. It wove an interesting tale, while allowing you to peek into the life of an adult, born in Guatemala, but raised in the U.S. There is an air of mystery, as Nitido discovers who he is, both as a person and as a Guatemalan.
Lovely evocation of a highland Guatemalan village, its tragic past and its unsettled present as seen by a young man returning from the US to his birthplace in search of information about his mother and father's early life. Compelling.
I liked how the narrator of this book was having a conversation with his deceased father throughout the book, as he discovered who he and his father were in Guatamala. It's an easy read, covering some serious topics, and interesting.
A well written interesting book with a totally original plot. I was intrigued by the
protaginist. Sometimes I was a little confused, but maybe I was just too sleepy when reading.
It wasn't an amazing page-turner, but this story about a Guatemalan-American returning to the country he left at 3 years to discover his past is well-written and has a couple of surprises.
I've read many books dealing with the tragedies occurring in Guatemala, but never from this viewpoint. While the story takes a while to unwind, it proved to be fascinating.
Seriously dumb book. 325 pages later and I really couldn't tell you what the point was. This book gets zero fact if I could give it negative stars I would!
Well written, flowing descriptions. Discusses the guerilla activity in Guatemala, but not in a gory way. I think it will make a great book discussion.
I read this right before leaving for my trip to Ecuador, and right after finishing "Oscar Wao". Perfect sequence. Loved this book.
Beautifully written about a period which wasn't beautiful at all. The story never fell into cliches. I highly recommend it.
Haunting book- very different style of writing. Set here and in Guatemala. Culture shift is dramatic. Well written
took a couple of chapters for me to get into it, but once in did, it was amazing
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Sylvia Sellers-García was born in Boston and grew up in the United States and Central America. A graduate of Brown University and former Marshall Scholar at Oxford, she has interned at Harper’s and worked at The New Yorker. She is currently a PhD candidate in Latin American History at the University of California, Berkeley.
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