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

3.26  ·  Rating details ·  134 Ratings  ·  35 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
ebook, 336 pages
Published December 1st 2007 by Riverhead Books
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Rating details
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Oct 29, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Deborah Clearman
Jun 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: guatemala
“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
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
Emi Bevacqua
Oct 03, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Jun 05, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 18, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Anne Dodge
Feb 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Nov 01, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Celeste Magnificent
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
Leaning towards 3.5 stars

It was wonderful to read a fiction situated in Guatemala with themes of memories, silences and a community's resilience.

Nitido has traveled to Río Roto to learn more about his late father's hometown and feel a sense of his roots and resolution to his parents' silent history that led to their migration to Oregon.

With mysterious characters, and taking the role of a priest, Nitido will have to walk through many challenges to meet his fate and to understand the painful decis
Jennifer Kim
Aug 31, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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:
This was a fascinating story, but it had a lot of plot holes (this may have been done on purpose to help set the atmosphere of secrecy/confusion/communication issues ), which in the end left me confused and a little disappointed. I saw it on the shelf at the library and picked it up on a whim, which I haven't done for a while.
Mar 01, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2010
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.
Apr 19, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 30, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 20, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, guatemala
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.
Nov 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 15, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found it difficult to concentrate while reading this book as the writer moved back and forth between time periods and peoples. The story itself was disconcerting, having to do with guerilla warfare in Guatemala. I discovered how ignorant I was/am regarding this...
Aug 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 30, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: category-fiction
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.
Sep 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Haunting book- very different style of writing. Set here and in Guatemala. Culture shift is dramatic. Well written
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.
Apr 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Very unique in its plot and narrative style. It was a slower read for me, but still enjoyable, and it contains what I would call "slow" surprises.
Feb 07, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this right before leaving for my trip to Ecuador, and right after finishing "Oscar Wao". Perfect sequence. Loved this book.
Elise Dauteuil
Feb 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully constructed novel. Read it.
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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.
More about Sylvia Sellers-García...