We meet him late in life: a quiet man, a good father and husband, a fixture in his Brooklyn neighborhood, a landlord and barber with a terrifying scar across his face. As the book unfolds, moving seamlessly between Haiti in the 1960s and New York City today, we enter the lives of those around him, and learn that he has also kept a vital, dangerous secret. Edwidge Danticat’s brilliant exploration of the “dew breaker”--or torturer--s an unforgettable story of love, remorse, and hope; of personal and political rebellions; and of the compromises we make to move beyond the most intimate brushes with history. It firmly establishes her as one of America’s most essential writers.
BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Edwidge Danticat's Claire of the Sea Light.
Haitian-born Danticat's third novel (after The Farming of Bones and Breath, Eyes, Memory) focuses on the lives affected by a "dew breaker," or torturer of Haitian dissidents under Duvalier's regime. Each chapter reveals the titular man from another viewpoint, including that of his grown daughter, who, on a trip she takes with him to Florida, learns the secret of his violent past and those of the Haitian boarders renting basement rooms in his Brooklyn home. This structure allows Danticat to move easily back and forth in time and place, from 1967 Haiti to present-day Florida, tracking diverse threads within the larger narrative. Some readers may think that what she gains in breadth she loses in depth; this is a slim book, and Danticat does not always stay in one character's mind long enough to fully convey the complexities she seeks. The chapters most of which were published previously as stories, with the first three appearing in the New Yorker can feel more like evocative snapshots than richly textured portraits. The slow accumulation of details pinpointing the past's effects on the present makes for powerful reading, however, and Danticat is a crafter of subtle, gorgeous sentences and scenes. As the novel circles around the dew breaker, moving toward final episodes in which, as a young man and already dreaming of escape to the U.S., he performs his terrible work, the impact on the reader hauntingly, ineluctably grows. 60,000 first printing.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Beautiful narrative that requires patience
Danticat is a powerful writer who tackles intense topics. The Dew Breaker is no exception. This novel blends and blurs the idea of short stories and novels and succeeds wonderfully. The different POVs move through space and time but stay within the history and culture of Haitians and Haitian Americans and that is part of what unites the chapters.
The violent history of Haiti's dictators and the impact they had on generations is explored, as are the ideas of repentance, reconciliation, and what freedom means. This is not an easy book to read, and the people portrayed are complex and flawed. Danticat paints these intensely colored miniature portraits that capture the essence and certain details of the lives she writes about, but we never get the full story.
The one flaw was that, whether by nature of the format or because some portraits just gave that tiny bit more that let us empathize or glean a bit of understanding, some fell short of the majority... and those left me wanting that tiny bit more.
The flaw is a small one, and the work is intense and horrifying and beautiful.
Read this for a literature class. This book reveals the pain and story of different people as Haitians...some who fled Haiti for a better life but their memories haunt them, and some remained in Haiti and are also haunted by their past. Because of this book, I’ve become very interested in the history of Haiti, and I’m now taking another literature class where Danticat is our main author.