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Breath, Eyes, Memory

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  27,949 ratings  ·  1,483 reviews
At an astonishingly young age, Edwidge Danticat has become one of our most celebrated new novelists, a writer who evokes the wonder, terror, and heartache of her native Haiti--and the enduring strength of Haiti's women--with a vibrant imagery and narrative grace that bear witness to her people's suffering and courage.  

At the age of twelve, Sophie Caco is sent from her imp
Paperback, 234 pages
Published May 18th 1998 by Vintage (first published April 1st 1994)
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Lainie Dealing with a family history of sexual trauma. That's a genre, right?…moreDealing with a family history of sexual trauma. That's a genre, right?(less)

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Average rating 3.89  · 
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 ·  27,949 ratings  ·  1,483 reviews

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Jan 14, 2017 rated it liked it
"I come from a place where breath, eyes, and memory are one, a place from which you carry your past like the hair on your head."

This book is really quite sad. The characters are weighed down with such misery and heartache as they shoulder the burden of nearly unbearable memories. These memories are carried within the women of this story and are passed through the generations where they persist and wreak havoc on the psyches of both mothers and daughters. Sophie has been raised in Haiti by her Ta
Nov 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
“The tale is not a tale unless I tell. Let the words bring wings to our feet.” - Edwidge Danticat, “Breath, Eyes, Memory.”

My first read for Black History Month, “Breath, Eyes, Memory” is Edwidge Danticat’s first novel and I loved it. This writer introduced me to Haitian literature over a decade ago and I feel strong feelings of kinship with her.

This was a beautiful and moving story about a young Haitian girl named Sophia, whose mother leaves her with an aunt in Haiti as a baby and moves to New
May 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
In lyrical prose Danticat’s debut swiftly charts the highs and lows of a Haitian-American daughter’s fraught bond with her mother over the course of decades. The first few sections focusing on her move to America, upbringing, and estrangement from her mom seem the best, in that they sketch a slow-moving, subtle portrait of the life the two build and share, then lose. After the middle a great many more subplots are introduced and social issues taken on, and the novel careens toward a blunt end, w ...more
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bipoc-author
Immediately prioritized this book by a Haitian-American writer after reading about the "shithole countries" comment, and I'm so glad I did. There's so much going on artistically, it leaves you in awe even as it breaks your heart.

Sophie grows up in Haiti with her aunt until age 12, when she is sent to New York City to live with her mother. It would be hard enough to live between two places, never having a true sense of home, but Sophie’s life is further shadowed by the painful knowledge of why h
Breath, Eyes, Memory was a bit of a surprise for me. Of course I expected it to be good. It is a modern classic. What I didn't expect was that it would be so immersing. I was completely captivated by this story about a Haitian immigrant and her culture and family history. Not uplifting, not perfect; but stunning!

Almost 4.5 Stars

Read on kindle.
Feb 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this story is about how women are traumatised by each other under patriarchy; how trauma makes us pass on trauma and abuse even especially to those we love. I found the story achingly sad, since the only way to break the cycle, to refuse to pass on the pain, is to free yourself somewhat from the one who hurt you, to break your connection with them on some level, even if you continue to love and care for them.

Apart from this deep insight into the violence wreaked upon girls and woman and
There is an Haitian tradition known as ”testing”. Haitian mothers have for centuries been taught that it is their duty, their obligation as good mothers, to test for their daughters’ virginity. An unmarried woman, having lost her virginity, has no virtue and is without value. Mothers insert their fingers into a daughter’s vagina to confirm that the hymen is intact. I was unaware of this tradition. It revolts me. I see it as barbaric, cruel, incomprehensible. How in the world can a mother maintai ...more
May 29, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: d-the-bad
*sigh* Okay, what did I think of the book, what did I think? Well, by my grade I'm sure you can tell I wasn't too fond of the book and didn't like it all that much. I wish I could leave it at that, but I'm a person who's solidly against criticisms without any sort of reason to back it up with. So... let's explain why I didn't really like it...

First of all, the story itself really didn't interest me at all. Sure there were moments that I couldn't put it down, but most of the time I was bored by i
Jan 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is a quiet but beautiful book. While it may not shimmer with literary acrobatics, its prose is clear as water, and the narrative structure literally tugs the reader through it. Had I the time, I could have read this in one sitting. It's that effortless. And yes, Danticat was only 24 when she wrote it!

At times I wanted Danticat to take me deeper into the complex lives of this multi-generational circle of women and the unspoken pasts that haunt them. Many of the 35 chapters are brief and/or f
May 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a beautifully painful story. But does Danticat ever write happy stories? (Because 'Krik? Krak!' had some sad elements in most of the short stories lol). I don't even know how to review this... Breath, Eyes, Memory is a sad book that is written in such a calm manner - Danticat style! Its deep with so many issues that span across 3 generations of women. Grandma Ifé (Manman) and her daughters -Tante Atie, Martine (who moved to NY) and her granddaughter Sophie (the main character of this boo ...more
Breath, Eyes, Memory is a book that feels like a comfortable companion, a story of a young girl Sophie, growing up with her Aunt, Tante Atie, in Haiti, her grandmother not far away. The Aunt is is the edlest child in the family, an unmarried woman, taking care of her sister's child.

Sophie's mother is in New York and when she is 12 years old sends a ticket for her to come. Sophie thinks of her Aunt as her mother, she makes her a mother's day card, her Aunt encourages her to take it with to the mo
Feb 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
“She told me about a group of people in Guinea who carry the sky on their heads. They are the people of Creation. Strong, tall, and mighty people who can bear anything. Their Maker, she said, gives them the sky to carry because they are strong. These people do not know who they are, but if you see a lot of trouble in your life, it is because you were chosen to carry part of the sky on your head.”

“Tante Atie once said that love is like rain. It comes in a drizzle sometimes. Then it starts pourin
La Tonya  Jordan
Jul 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to La Tonya by: Sisters With Soul Book Club
Shelves: favorites
It was a chilling story of love, sexuality, and freedom. Can you truly find freedom after a rape attack when everthing in your culture puts your virginity above everything? Hating yourself, hating your child, and finally taking your life seems to be taking matters to the extreme for Marteve.

Sophie trying to free herself from the pain of being tested for her virginity and trying to please her husband. She was separated from her aunt to something that was suppose to be better without understandin
Jan 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: bajen-s-25-2017
Women go through painful stuff in so many places around the world. This story has once again proven how women will always have to endure more, sacrifice, learn more...we always have to do more than men to be considered for anything, as anything.

I am deviating but throughout the story about these four women from Haiti, I was constantly struck by the enormity of their burden as a result of society's expectations, the violations of their bodies and minds, yet they still managed to get up every day
Rowland Pasaribu
May 17, 2010 rated it liked it
The Male World's Debilitating Obsession with Female Purity

The dominant culture's problematic obsession with female purity is best witnessed by the pair of Martine and Atie. Growing up, the sisters' purity was carefully guarded by the humiliating practice of testing. Yet Martine was raped at age sixteen, while Atie, betrayed by her fiancé, never married. Neither achieved the womanhood for which she was groomed, suggesting at first that this is the source of their unhappiness. But the ultimate fo
Dec 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Breath,Eyes,Memory by Edwidge Danticat was recommend to me by Nicole. This book, I don't know where to beginning. As I started reading the book I thought it would turn out to be like any other books but it didn't. This book is about the relationship between a mother and a daughter who had not seen each other for a long period of time. This book relates to me in so many ways. When Manman sees her daughter for the very first time she took her as like she was a fragile glass. As for Sophie, she did ...more
I have heard it compared to virginity cult, our mothers' obsession with keeping us pure and chaste....

Edwidge Danticat is a writer and she shows us and show off in writing this novel Breath, Eyes, Memory . A moving story that deeply explores mother-daughter relationships. Danticat explores how generation of hurt and emotional abuse affects relationships and future generations.

The story is set in Haiti and explores three generations of women, Grandma Ifé, her daughters -Tante Atie, Martine and
Jul 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
(3.5) Like her protagonist, Sophie Caco, Danticat was raised by her aunt in Haiti and reunited with her parents in the USA at age 12. As Sophie grows up and falls in love with an older musician, she and her mother are both haunted by sexual trauma that nothing – not motherhood, not a long-awaited return to Haiti – seems to heal. I loved the descriptions of Haiti (“The sun, which was once god to my ancestors, slapped my face as though I had done something wrong. The fragrance of crushed mint leav ...more
Jul 12, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: literary
This would be a great companion book to Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao or This Is How You Lose Her in terms of exploring the cultural trauma of a Caribbean nation (in this book's case, Haiti vs its next door neighbor, Diaz' Dominican Republic). There was a lot of nice imagery and some beautiful writing in this book, and a wonderful sense of place. Danticat avoids cliches, so I was never really sure where the book was going. I liked that it avoided drama and sentimentality, but ...more
Jan 23, 2017 rated it liked it
I found this book a little difficult to read, it was chopped up in little segments & for me, it made it hard for me to follow.
Sophie is a young girl who has been raised by her aunt & grandmother in Haiti & at the age of 12 her mother sends for her & she moves to NYC to live with her mom. Quite a transition for Sophie for a variety of reasons, new home, new country, & a mom she doesn't know & her mom has her own demons.
We move quickly over several years to Sophie becoming a young woman & we see
Neil R. Coulter
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Something about Breath, Eyes, Memory didn’t connect with me. It’s not the subject matter, difficult though it is—showing the trauma some Haitian girls are subjected to, the ways that rape continues to echo through the generations of a family, and the struggles of living between two places. I’m glad when literature can make me aware of what’s happening in the world and remind me of the hardships others are enduring every day. And because I long for fair treatment of women, I’m thankful for injust ...more
Mar 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All the things that are never said, never expressed continue to haunt me after several months: Danticat elegantly utilizes silence and ellipses in a way that I'm quite accustomed to in cinema, but rarely find in literature. This means that at first the story seems thin, almost emaciated—but suddenly the absence reveal itself not as lack but meticulous authorial control, and peeking between the spare sentences are glimpses of vast expanses of the utterly inexpressible. The novel is constructed in ...more
May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Thanks to Isabelle for making me bump this book up my TBR list. I enjoyed most of this novel. It's a relatively short book that is by no means an easy read. BEM centers the story of Sophie, a young Haitian girl, who was raised by her aunt for most of her life, then summoned by her mother (whom she's never met) to join her in the US. As much as I enjoyed Danticat's delicate writing, there were parts of the novel that felt stagnant (when Sophie returns to Haiti with her daughter) or gaps in time t ...more
Feb 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written

This had me sobbing in the work. Uncontrollable sobbing...! I loved it. Totally identified with the main character and her struggles. *tears*
robin friedman
Feb 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Story Of Sophie Caco

My local library sponsors a "Black Voices" book group which offers the rare opportunity to read novels exploring black culture in the United States and throughout the world. The group's most recent book was "Breath, Eyes, Memory", (1994) the first novel of the Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat (b. 1969) who has subsequent to this book established a substantial reputation. This is the first novel I have read about Haiti and my first book by Danticat. Oprah Winfrey featured "
Cherisa B
Aug 15, 2021 rated it liked it
Starting at the surface and seeming to skim there a long time, the story suddenly goes very deep into the lives and traumas of a Haitian mother and daughter. Sophie, the daughter, is left in Haiti with her aunt, Tante Atie, when Martine, her mother migrates to New York. Raised lovingly, Sophie is taught her aunt is not her mother though she holds that place in her heart. When Martine finally sends for her it, it creates the first rent in the fabric of Sophie’s life that we share.

Much of the hur
Feb 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I finished this book last night and let myself think on it over night before posting a review. First things first, I found this book to be brilliant.

I honestly don't know that much about Haiti as a country or a culture. I of course know about the earthquake that struck the country in 2010. It was all over the U.S. press and friends of mine had fundraisers and donations drives. I also had friends in the State department who chose to volunteer to go to Haiti to do what they could. One of my friend
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a short novel of 200 pages. It is tightly constructed although with a very linear plot. The story is of a Haitian girl who, as an 18 year old, comes to join her mother in America. The book spans 15 years and switches back and forth between the family in Brooklyn and family back in Haiti. Insights into Haitian customs and the way of life permeate the entire book.

The mother in the book, we find out early on, was raped by a stranger and gave birth to Sophie. The mother has nightmares about
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: caribbean
I always find it interesting to read an author's debut after I'm already familiar with their latest works and honestly, Danticat can do no wrong, at least in my eyes, which is why this edition of Breath, Eyes, Memory was so great (20th anniversary edition) because it had a retrospective at the end and an interview with the author. Here you'll find fascinating insights into what it's like for authors to reread their earliest works, what this book meant to the Haitian community, and what sort of f ...more
Mar 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Breath, Eyes, Memory is an engaging story of Sophie Caco, who was abruptly summoned from her hometown of Haiti to the United States by her estranged mother. Author Edwidge Danticat introduces readers to the Caco women, who embodied strength and resiliency, but who also harbored a dark past. Set in Haiti as well as within the Haitian community in New York, this novel also addresses controversial cultural practices, and how they impact the lives of women.
This was such a great book, that I was u
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Edwidge Danticat was born in Haiti and moved to the United States when she was twelve. She is the author of several books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory, an Oprah Book Club selection; Krik? Krak!, a National Book Award finalist; and The Farming of Bones, an American Book Award winner. She is also the editor of The Butterfly's Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States and The Beac ...more

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