The Seamstress

By Frances de Pontes Peebles
(Harper Perennial, Paperback, 9780060738884, 656pp.)

Publication Date: August 2009

Other Editions of This Title: Hardcover

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Selected by Indie Booksellers for the August 2008 Indie Next List
“An epic saga from a talented new writer that will definitely keep you reading. Emilia and Luzia dos Santos are orphaned sisters who are separated by twists of fate, but throughout life they remain connected by heart and mind. This is a brilliant Brazilian 'western'; a great surprise, and, now, one of my favorites of all time.”
-- Lillian Kinsey, Bohannons' Books With a Past, Georgetown, KY


Winner of the Friends of American Writers Award for Fiction

As seamstresses, the young sisters EmÍlia and Luzia dos Santos know how to cut, mend, and conceal—useful skills in the lawless backcountry of Brazil, where ruthless land barons feud with bands of outlaw cangaceiros, trapping innocent residents in the crossfire. EmÍlia, a naive romantic, dreams of falling in love with a gentleman and escaping to a big city. Quick-tempered Luzia also longs for escape, finding it in her craft and secret prayers to the saints she believes once saved her life. But when Luzia is abducted by cangaceiros led by the infamous Hawk and EmÍlia stumbles into a marriage with the son of a wealthy and politically powerful doctor, the sisters' quiet lives diverge in ways they never would have imagined.

About the Author

Frances de Pontes Peebles's short stories have appeared in Indiana Review, Zoetrope: All-Story, and the collection O. Henry Prize Stories, 2005. Born in Pernambuco, Brazil, she is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She divides her time between Brazil and Miami.

Conversation Starters from


  1. How does their shared childhood as poor, religious, orphaned seamstresses shape Emília and Luzia's unique perspectives on life?

Praise For The Seamstress

“This impressive debut novel seduces with its sweeping story, strong characterization, and extraordinarily vivid detail. A good read-alike for fans of Isabel Allende.”
-Booklist (starred review)

“[An] engrossing historical saga. . . . The novel’s true beauty is the exquisitely realized relationship between Emilia and Luzia, two strong women who, despite the separate paths their lives take, remain connected and committed to each other.”
-Library Journal

“THE SEAMSTRESS is a gripping portrait of the lives of two sisters caught in the political unbalance of a country at a crossroads. Bittersweet, beautifully written, this sweeping saga is as impossible to put down as it is to forget.”
-Aryn Kyle, author of THE GOD OF ANIMALS

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