Book Review: A Decent Woman, by Eleanor Parker Sapia

Title: A Decent Woman
Author: Eleanor Parker Sapia
Publisher: Booktrope
Genre: Historical
Purchase on Amazon
A Decent Woman is a rich, elegantly written debut novel about two different women struggling to survive in the chauvinistic, male-dominated society of early 1900’s Ponce, Puerto Rico.

Ana Belen, a midwife born to African slaves in Cuba, harbors a secret, violent past. Serafina, a beautiful young wife who soon becomes a widow and marries a rich merchant, eventually must, like Ana, keep a vicious incident secret in order to protect herself against the wrath of a prejudiced society. These two women, different in race and class yet bonded by fate, become the best of friends in two diverse worlds.

Talented author Eleanor Parker Sapia draws us into their lives, their loves and their struggles as they try to survive in a seemingly unforgiving culture where there’s no real freedom for women, no matter where they come from or what their status is.

In this thought-provoking novel, Sapia delves into social criticism and explores women’s issues—all the while balancing her storytelling skills to create an unforgettable tale that sparkles with beautiful prose, rich descriptions, and deep characterization, thus creating two female portraits that will stay with the reader for a long time.

Besides the obvious social themes on the dynamics between men and women, Sapia explores the way superstition played a part in the culture of Puerto Rico during that time. The author has clearly done her research in terms of African Yoruba traditions and the way they later mixed with Catholicism. Women friendship as savior is another important theme. In a world where males are viewed as evil, corrupted figures, no matter if they’re doctors, judges, or possess other positions of power, solidarity between women is the one thing that can liberate and even rescue them, if only on an emotional and spiritual level.

A Decent Woman is a beautiful work of fiction, and one that I whole-heartedly recommend to readers of historical novels.  

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