A Woman of Endurance, set in 19th-century Puerto Rican plantation society, follows Pola, a deeply spiritual African woman who is captured and later sold for the purpose of breeding future slaves. The resulting babies are taken from her as soon as they are born. Pola loses the faith that has guided her and becomes embittered and defensive. The dehumanizing violence of her life almost destroys her. But this is not a novel of defeat but rather one of survival, regeneration, and reclamation of common humanity.
Llanos-Figueroa’s prose is at once merciless and elegantly descriptive, conjuring atrocity as well as historical atmosphere and creating characterization that is sketched sparingly but with depth. There are elements of magical realism as well as a convincing portrayal of the informal plantation caste system...and how it affects the relationships among the enslaved. Those seeking tales of triumph through endurance will find this an engaging if at times brutal, read.
Intense and bittersweet ... Gut-wrenching ... In vivid and often graphic detail, Llanos-Figueroa depicts the sadness and inhumanity of Pola’s life ... The action builds toward a memorable end as Pola regains her belief in Mother Yemayá, her faith spirit. The restoration of her Yoruba spirituality and her deepened friendships are both touching and emotionally palpable. This harrowing story is hard to put down.
Llanos-Figueroa draws a detailed picture ... Llanos-Figueroa’s prose is lively, her characters vivid. The last part of the book loses steam when it shifts into romance mode, but it’s a moving and engaging tale. An absorbing and complex novel shines a light on chattel slavery in Puerto Rico.