The Dew Breaker

The Dew BreakerThe Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat
Published by Vintage Books USA on March 8th 2005
Pages: 244
ISBN: 1400034299
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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 Fran├žois and Jean-Claude Duvalier in Haiti.

This book is a combination of short stories that move between Haiti and the United States. I did not really know about the novel being made up of short stories when I chose to read this book, so as I was reading, I thought “Wait, What? Who is this person?” It quickly became evident that this book is comprised of 9 sections/short stories where many of the characters in the sections have something in common with a character in another section.

The book begins with Ka, an artist who sculpts a sculpture of her father. As they are taking a road trip to deliver the sculpture, she learns the truth about her father. She believed her father to be a quiet man who was once tortured in prison. He is now a father, husband, landlord and barber. But he has a dark secret – he is not the man she thinks he is. He was not a prisoner but a “hunter” and the prisoners were his “prey.” A man who voluntarily tortured and killed people.

As the book goes on, we meet other characters who have ties to Haiti who in some way have a connection to each other. The chapters are : The Book of the Dead, Seven, Water Child, The Book of Miracles, Night Talkers, The Bridal Seamstress, Monkey Tails, The Funeral Singer, The Dew Breaker. The short stories are about coming characters traveling from Haiti to America. They tell tales of oppression, family, redemption and heartache. There is also resiliency to the tales. No matter what the characters have gone through, they try to keep going, to make a way for themselves. They show hope and a need to create new lives for themselves.