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The Dew Breaker

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  5,519 Ratings  ·  569 Reviews
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’ ...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published December 18th 2007 by Vintage (first published 2004)
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Pauline McGonagle This was very good but I like her 'The Farming of Bones 'even better.Wonderful writer who captures the trauma that history has left in such a troubled…moreThis was very good but I like her 'The Farming of Bones 'even better.Wonderful writer who captures the trauma that history has left in such a troubled place.(less)
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Diane S ☔
Jan 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lor
"Aline had never imagined that people like Beatrice existed, men and women whose tremendous agonies filled every blank space in their lives. Maybe there were hundred, even thousands, of people like this, men and women chasing fragments of themselves long lost to others."

Although this quote appears later in the book, it sums up succinctly what these linking stories encompass. People who were tortured by the Dew Breaker, or family members were, people who think they see him and even the people who
Oct 25, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own-it, 2016
3.5 stars

The Dew Breaker is a story in nine parts. Each part could be read as its own short story, and I vacillate between liking and disliking this structure. Usually I'd enjoy something like this, but the stories are at times so loosely connected that it's hard to see the bigger picture. And yet, part of me likes the way the author drops information ever so carefully, that it makes a sort of puzzle out of the reading.

Regardless, the stories are beautifully written and tragically told. You get
The Dew Breaker is a book organized into 9 sections (chapters), which are all perfectly able to stand alone as short stories. Each chapter features different characters and different points of view, and seem random at first, but by the end you realize they’re all interlocking and related in some way.

The novel is about an unnamed prison guard/torturer who was part of the Tonton Macoutes, the voluntary militia under Jean-Claude Duvalier’s reign in Haiti. The book is just as much about his life an
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars

Maybe this is the beginning of madness...
Forgive me for what I am saying.
Read it...quietly, quietly.

-Osip Mandelstam

The title of this book "Dew Breaker" "comes from a Creole phrase which refers to those who break the serenity of the grass in the morning dew. It is a Creole nickname for torturer."The "Dew Breakers" are a group of volunteers who tortured and killed thousands of civilians under the regimes of François and Jean-Claude Duvalier in Haiti.

This book is a combination of short st
Brian Sweany
Aug 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Much like Tim O'Brien's THE THINGS THEY CARRIED, this book lingers in that nebulous hinterland between short story and novel where few writers have the gumption or the ability to tread. Each chapter is a self-contained story, with divergent and seemingly random settings--Haiti in the dictatorial 1960s, Manhattan in the 1970s, Brooklyn and Queens in the 21st century. And yet slowly, irrevocably, the reader is drawn into the shared love, the shared remorse, the shared history, the shared hope, the ...more
Libby Chester
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are three stories in ‘The Dew Breaker’ by Edwidge Danticat, that have Anne, her daughter, and husband as the central characters. ‘The Book of the Dead’ is the first story and here we learn that the father, the subject of his daughter, Ka’s sculpting talents, is not who she has always believed him to be, a man who spent a great many years in prison. The sculpture she creates represents her idea of who her father had been as a prisoner. When they are taking the sculpture to a renowned Haitia ...more
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These are interconnected stories which revolve around a former Haitian torturer now living a quiet life in the United States, his former identity known only to his wife. The characterizations were fantastic. The experiences of Haitians living through a brutal dictatorship and its aftermath in exile was powerfully conveyed.
May 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Agony and Atonement...

The Dew Breaker is my first taste of the gift of storytelling by Edwidge Danticat......but it won't be my last!

As the novel opens, revealing shocking secrets of the past, it's clear that the reader will not be disappointed.

The Dew Breaker's title comes from a Creole phrase referring to `Tontons Macoutes' (Haitian volunteer torturers) during the regime of the Duvaliers in Haiti. They would often come in the early dawn to take their victims away...thus the broke the serenit
An outstanding collection of 9 short stories, with characters and events intertwined (like Sherwood Anderson's "Winesburg, Ohio"), and revolving around the Tonton Macoute in Haiti and in the Haitian diaspora. Despite its grim backdrop, Danticat writes beautifully and with great sensitivity and with human understanding. Highly recommended!
Jul 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It reminds me of 'Go Down Moses' in its blurring of the lines between novel and linked short stories. It also blurs the victim/victimizer lines in smart, complicated ways. Read it. Teach it. It's great.
Mar 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
We are introduced to a Haitian man, living in Brooklyn. He emigrated here, over thirty years ago. He is a good father and a good husband. He also has a very dark past, which involved, working as a prison guard, in his homeland. Rumors of atrocities abound...
We are then shown separate stories, of the lives of other Haitians, as they deal with the struggles of life and each of them has some connection, with the “Dew Breaker”, (or torturer).
This was my first novel, by this author and I was quite i
I would like to give it 4 stars for Danticat's beautiful writing style. However, short stories just fall short for me.
Jenny Shank
Nov 25, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Haitian lives, Haitian scars

The Dew Breaker
Our Rating A
Author: Edwidge Danticat
Publisher: Knopf
Pages: 242 pages
Genre: Fiction
Price: $22
By Jenny Shank, Special To The News
March 12, 2004

Despite her youth, Edwidge Danticat has always written with the gravity and insight of a wise old seer. Still, she could not have foreseen that civil unrest would break out in her native Haiti again, just before the publication of her new novel, The Dew Breake
Michael Lindy
Sep 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I suppose I should not go very far into reviewing "The Dew Breaker" before pointing out the style for which it has gained a certain amount of attention. The structure of "The Dew Breaker" is made out of a myriad of stories, some tying into each other, and others functioning in what is seemingly their own separate world. Not every character knows the other, and not there is no moment where the stories join together. But although the characters may not know each other, they each share the same bac ...more
Lea Ann
Generally this was a good book. I enjoyed reading about Haitian and Haitian American culture and I will probably be looking into more of Haiti's political past that makes up so much of the story.

I wish I had approached the book differently when I began reading it, because I started out with the impression that all the stories were connected, and somehow connected to one of the characters in the first chapter. However, each chapter jumped around so wildly in time, place and setting that it would
I enjoyed the short stories in this collection. Thanks to having read Brother I'm Dying beforehand, I can definitely see a lot of real life similarities between Edwidge Danticat's character's background (i.e., a character that's a preacher, character's immigrating to America after violent actions taken against them, etc.) that draw from her Haitian family.

However, my main qualm with this book is that the main character, "The Dew Breaker," story feels underwritten. (view spoiler)
Dec 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Edwidge Danticat is still one of my favorite writers, but this was not one of my favorite books of hers. I listened to it on audiobook, and it took me a while to realize that each section was a different short story rather than a different chapter. While the writing is still beautiful, I wasn't sure how some of the stories tied in. They were definitely thought-provoking, particularly since we get to see what is a simultaneous sympathetic and condemning look at a former Haitian macoute who worked ...more
Feb 17, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was initially interested in this book (given to me by my boss) because of its ties to Haiti. As a Florida resident, I have had the chance to interact with Haitians and am interested in finding out more about their country and culture. I must say that I was left a little disappointed with Danticat and her writing. The flow was confusing, as it jumped each chapter between different people and time periods. The beginning was interesting and drew me in, and the end tied everything together adequat ...more
Julia Thomas-Singh
I love Danticat's sentences. They are totally absorbing, sensuous. The only reason I can't give this book five stars is that it didn't totally work for me as a novel. The interconnected story thing is too much like in her book Claire of the Sea Light. But the first chapter and last chapter were amazing.
Jun 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This author is a one-woman Commission on
Reconciliation whose insider knowledge of
recent Haitian history supplies both the need for
reconciliation and its painful possibility. Great
storytelling with many light touches among the
somber facts.
Apr 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of those authors who can't seem to write a bad book. All her stories are great.
May 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an absolutely astounding book. It is a poignant amalgamation of stories that seem disconnected, but eventually come together to create devastingly beautiful and haunting story.
WOW! This book is amazing!

Dew breaker is a Creole term for torturer; someone who 'disturbs the calm, morning dew covering the grass'. When I began reading, I believed I was reading what would be a series of short stories by this author, whose writing I LOVE! Instead, only a couple stories into the book, I realized that the stories were connected. While these stories can certainly stand alone, in actuality, the characters and events are all related to the father whose secret is revealed in the f
This book was very confusing to me. I did not realize that it was a compilation of several short stories. Some of the short stories linked back to a character from the first story but not all of them. Or maybe I just didn't realize it. I would have liked the book more if I had been able to tell better how the stories related to each other. this was more of a 2.5 stars but would have been 3.5 stars if the characters weren't so confusing and I could have linked the stories better. Read as part of ...more
Alex Geisel
Oct 04, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Edwidge Danticat’s 2004 novel The Dew Breaker is a collection of loosely connected short stories that detail the lives of several Haitian immigrants living in New York City after the fall of the Duvalier regimes in Haiti. The nine stories that make up the novel are all quite successful individually; in fact, the vast majority of them had been published as standalone tales before the novel’s release. Through these fictionalized retellings of the Haitian immigrant experience, Danticat illuminates ...more
Mar 18, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was excited to read this book and initially thought it would be similar to The Brief History of 7 Killings by Marlon James considering its a novel about the Dew Breaker from the perspectives of those who knew him in some shape or form. Although this stands true to the construction of the novel, and the narratives were written beautifully, this book missed the mark for me. I felt the character of the Dew Breaker was underdeveloped. I learned more about each individual telling their story than t ...more
Amy G.
Jan 23, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Although the writing is beautiful, the structure of this book led me to lose interest halfway through. It was a struggle to finish it. Loved a few chapters though.
Jan 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Damn she can write. These were powerful short stories with a vague connection to each other and all about Haiti and Haitian immigrants to NYC and the way the past is always with you.
Dec 15, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
Haiti has always struck me as a place with fascinating history, and since my grandparents lived there from 1967-69, I've been curious to learn more about that particular period. This slim novel, which deals at least partially with that era, seemed like a good way to get a taste of life under the repressive dictatorship of "Papa Doc" Duvalier. It opens with the story of a young woman who's just sold her first sculpture, a mahogany statue of her father. She's on her way to Florida with her father ...more
Dusty Roether
Feb 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This was such a unique book. It almost felt like a literary hybrid, like a novel of short stories. As a result, I definitely had to pay close attention to characters' names so I would not miss the connections.

It was interesting to witness those connections between all the characters in the book. Ultimately, I felt that, given the current public dispute on immigration and refugees coming to the United States, the author really showed a unique perspective of why different people might seek to com
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Bound Together: Dew Breaker Discussion 20 52 Mar 14, 2018 08:01PM  
Dreams as I read 1 15 May 09, 2009 12:58PM  
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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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“Life was neither something you defended by hiding nor surrendered calmly on other people's terms, but something you lived bravely, out in the open, and that if you had to lose it, you should lose it on your own terms.” 19 likes
“My mother used to say that we'll all have three death: the one when our breath leaves our bodies to rejoin the air, the one when we are out back in the earth, and the one that will erase us completely and no one will remember us at all.” 2 likes
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