Theme: The Rhythm of Life Summary: This best-selling novel, published in 1993, is set in Santiago, Mexico, and consists of short interrelated narratives, each one focused on a single character. The work depicts the triumphs and tragedies of common people-a flower-seller, a healer, a fisherman, a teacher, a midwife, and others-whose lives are interwoven by fate and passion. The characters struggle to survive and prevail in a difficult and mysterious world, one edged by the rhythms and power and beauty of the sea.
l. A Place Where the Sea Remembers begins with one family's story and weaves itself through the village of Santiago and around the lifes of the many people who live there. As the novel unfolds, a landscape takes shape at once simple and complex. Yet so much happens behind the scenes -- does this add to the storytelling? Create a mood? How does Benitez show the complexity of life through the details of everyday living? 2.
Remedios is the Spanish word for remedies. Remedios is also the name of one of the book's main characters. She is intricately woven into the book and the life of almost every character in Santiago. She is a wise woman -- the soothing, calm center which counteracts many of the characters' tragedies. Why does she choose to live apart from the town? How does Remedios counsel a remedy to those who trudge up the hill for healing and preservation? What remedies does she herself seek? What does this character represent for you? 3. In A Place Where the Sea Remembers, the characters are confronted with many feminist issues: rape, abortion, single parenthood, and too much machismo. How is the "woman's lot" illustrated in the book? Discuss how class plays a part in both how a woman behaves and is treated. In particular, compare Chayo's life to Esperanza's -- the life of dona Lina, Rafael's mother, to the doctor's wife.
4. In Mexico, indigenous spirituality and the Catholic Church are often at odds with one another. Still, many people choose to practice both. How does Benitez illustrate the difference between the two, and how are both important to the Mexican culture? Is it possible to find a balance between them? 5. The stroke of fate is a recurrent theme of A Place Where the Sea Remembers. How does fate show itself to all the characters and play a part in their stories? What choices do these characters make as a result of what fate has given them? 6. Death is a recurrent theme of the book. In the case of the fisherman, it is only after the loss of his wife that Cesar is forced to emotionally connect with his son. Why does it take the death of the woman in the family before Cesar reaches out to Beto and becomes, truly, his father and nurturer? And what of the death of Richard, Marta's son? Is this death ascribed to fate or would you say it is retribution for Marta's revenge against her sister? 7. The sea is the central metaphor in A Place Where the Sea Remembers. It is a witness to all the characters' stories. How does the sea influence Remedios' life? How do the elements of earth, fire, water, and air sustain her? How do they sustain you? 8. Tragedy affects the lives of almost every character in the book. Discuss the nature of tragedy and how tragedy is something we grow from. Are the book's characters transformed by tragedy? How so? 9. Remedios says "It is stories that save us." Do you agree with her assertion? How does storytelling restore and preserve a people and their culture?