Monday, December 21, 2015

Bookish Thoughts: The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat

I thought today I would do a combined post with a couple of teasers and a review of a book I read last week. I imagine there will not be many people around this week given Christmas is so close. I had planned to take next week off from blogging, but I may post my top ten books read list if I can put it together (it's proving to be more of a challenge than I thought--can I count three books as one since they are a series, each book dependent on the other? To make it easier for myself, I just might!). I have two more reviews going up later this week of Christmas-themed books I read, which I can't wait to share with you all.

To those who celebrate, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas!


First Paragraph of The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat:

My father is gone.  I'm slouched in a cast-aluminum chair across from two men, one the manager of the hotel where we're staying and the other a policeman. They're both waiting for me to explain what's become of my father.

Teaser from The Dew Breaker, page 20:

"Ka, I don't deserve a statue," he says again, this time much more slowly, "not a whole one, at least. You see, Ka, your father was a hunter, he was not the prey."

and from page 93:

Estina Estéme lived in a valley between two lime-green mountains and a giant waterfall, which sprayed a find mist over the banana grove that surrounded her one-room house and the teal ten-place mausoleum that harbored the bones of many of her forebears. Her nephew recognized the house as soon as he saw it. 

What do you think? Would you keep reading?  



The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat
Knopf Publishing; 2004
Fiction; 244 pgs

From Goodreads: 
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 -- is 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.
I first read something by Edwidge Danticat three years ago and loved it. I went on to read two more of her books, and loved them as well. She's a brilliant author who is able to put into words so well the struggle and hardships endured by Haitians through history. She also captures well the immigrant experience in her books. I have had my copy of The Dew Breaker since it came out, but for some reason put off reading it until now. 

I wish I had read a few of the reviews out there before going into this one. It was not what I expected, and it hurt my enjoyment of it. I expected a typical novel, and The Dew Breaker reads more like a collection of loosely connected stories. I kept waiting for everything to come together with some sort of common conclusion in the end. When that didn't happen, I was left feeling a bit unsatisfied. I almost want to go back and read it again, now that I know what to expect. Maybe some day I will.

That aside, The Dew Breaker is made up of several poignant stories about various characters who have suffered throughout their lives and are just trying to make it today. The stories all either directly or indirectly center around the title character, the dew breaker, or torturer of Haitian dissidents under Duvalier's regime, who irrevocably influenced their lives. The stories take the reader between the past and the present. You meet both men and women, the victims and the family of victims of the dew breaker as well as his own family, both his daughter and his wife, and himself. You see a man who has completely remade his life and is a gentler kinder person, and yet his past reverberates long after in the lives he has touched--including his own daughter who has only just found out who her father once was.

What stands out most about this book for me is how it made me feel as I was reading. The sadness, the anger, the frustration, and also the hope of the characters. The story of the pastor who spoke out against injustice--how brave and yet how dangerous! Another of my favorite stories was the one of the young reporter who interviews the retiring seamstress. The language and the words not spoken . . . I liked everything about it. It was a very moving story.

While The Dew Breaker was not what I expected, it is one I have come to appreciate the more I reflect on it. Edwidge Danticat continues to be one of my favorite authors. I have another of her books on my shelf and will make sure it doesn't take me as long to get to it as it took me to get to this one.

To learn more about Edwidge Danticat and her books, please visit the author's Facebook Page

Source: I pulled this book off my own TBR shelf. 


© 2015, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

44 comments:

  1. It is a shame when a book doesn't turn out quite how you expected it to but it still sounds like there is a lot to appreciate with this one.

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    1. Cleo - I was really disappointed upon finishing it, but the more I had time to reflect on the book, the more I could appreciate it. I usually am able to go with the flow, but I think the lack of the expected story arch is what got to me most.

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  2. I am curious about this collection of stories, although I wouldn't like the disappointment of expecting a different kind of book. Thanks for sharing...and for visiting my blog.

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    1. Laurel-Rain - Usually I'm more flexible, but I think because I kept expecting everything to come together more completely, I lost something in the reading experience. I am still glad I read this one, although I definitely prefer her other books.

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  3. I've never read Danticat, but you've made me so curious.

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    1. Jenclair - I love her novel Farming Bones. That might be a good one to start with if you want to give her writing a try.

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  4. I read this years ago, and although I love this author, I don't recall this one being a favorite.

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    1. Diane - Yes, from the other reviews I've read since reading it, I can tell it isn't high up on many people's favorites of hers. I am glad I read it though.

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  5. Hm, I wonder if the stories were supposed to be connected or not. I probably won't start with this book but would like to try this author.

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    1. Kathy - There is definitely a connection between the stories, but no one cohesive story overreaching the entire novel. I do hope you will give Danticat a try. I love her writing. And while this one isn't high up on my favorites list of her books, her other books are.

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  6. It sounds interesting but probably not something I would pick up. Merry Christmas! Girl Who Reads

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    1. Donna - Her books are definitely high in emotion and are thought provoking. I hope you have a Merry Christmas too!

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  7. Sounds like a powerful book. I've been meaning to give this author a try and appreciate your thoughts on her works.

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    1. Catherine - It is. I think I might get more out of it a second time around. That probably won't be soon though.

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  8. I've just started my ten day-countdown of my 10 favourite books this year and it's ridiculously hard! 'The Dew-Breaker' sounds really interesting but I definitely recognize the feeling that when the way a book is written is completely different from what you expect, you don't enjoy it as much!
    Thanks for sharing :) I hope you have a great week and Christmas!
    http://universeinwords.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/teasers-on-tuesday-cats-cradle-by-kurt.html
    Juli @ Universe in Words

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    1. I'll have to check out your countdown! At first glance, I thought for sure this year it would be easier to come up with ten, but that hasn't been the case at all.

      I hope you have a great week and a Happy Christmas as well, Juli!

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  9. I loved the teaser on Dew Breaker and was drawn in by the immediacy of it. Sorry you didn't enjoy it as much as you'd hoped:(

    We did see Star Wars yesterday:) The actors did a wonderful job didn't they?

    Wishing you the best holidays ever.

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    1. Sandra - I really think it was more my expectations than the book itself. It was not her strongest work, but I think it is still a worthwhile read.

      I am glad you got to see Star Wars! I thought everyone did a great job. I look forward to seeing the next movie.

      I hope you have a wonderful holiday season too!

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  10. interesting, though not sure I would read. I like her style(I read: Breath, Eyes, Memory), but it's emotionally tough writing

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    1. Emma - I really liked Breath, Eyes, Memory. Yes, her writing is very emotional and the subject matter she covers is not easy to read about.

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  11. I tend to gravitate toward the kind of book you expected. Ones where everything ties together, so I think this probably isn't for me.

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    1. Suzie - Me too. I think this book has something to offer, but I definitely prefer her other work more.

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  12. Oh, this sounds really good! I read Claire of the Sea Light by this same author and LOVED it, so this is definitely going on my list! Thanks for visiting my blog, and I hope you have a Merry Christmas!

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    1. Lisa-Marie - I haven't read Claire of the Sea Light yet, but I want to. I am so glad to hear you loved it! I hope you have a Merry Christmas too.

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  13. Love that second descriptive teaser! Wonderful!

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    1. Proxyfish - I couldn't resist adding that one. I love Danticat's writing.

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  14. Everything about the book beginning and teaser makes the book sound so ominous; I'm intrigued!

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    1. Claudia - It was an interesting and emotional read. I wish there had been more.

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  15. Hi Wendy,

    Unless the 'short story' element of the book really works well, in that they are individually defined and complete stories; or they combine well to produce a complete and 'finished' complete works, then this probably isn't one for me.

    The author seems to have a unique and intriguing style of writing, which deals with a culture and location, of which I have every little knowledge.

    ----------

    Once work ends on Christmas Eve evening, I hope to find time to prepare a couple of posts for over the holiday weekend, although I am never organised enough to auto schedule them.

    Reading challenges have pretty much gone by the wayside for me and I don't see any reason why you shouldn't count three books as one for your post, although if they are all good enough to make your Top Ten list, then I would probably count them as three individual books and make my decision easier :)

    Thaks for sharing and enjoy your festive season :)

    Yvonne

    Thanks for sharing

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    1. Yvonne - I do not think either of your examples would fit the stories in this collection, which is why I think I had such a problem with it, expectations aside. I do think this book has something to offer, but perhaps we just aren't the right audience for it. It's too bad really because I have really liked Danticat's other work.

      I hope work goes well for you the rest of the week. I have Christmas Eve off, fortunately. My company starts coming in the night before, and so I imagine that is a good thing. Or maybe it's not. Haha

      I think I will go ahead and list the three favorites as one just so I have more room to mention other books. :-)

      Have a great rest of the week!

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  16. I really like the sound of this novel! I would most likely continue reading if I had the copy. Have a great week and happy reading!

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    1. Yvo - I hope you do get a chance to read it. I really like Danticat's writing style.

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  17. I'm not familiar with this author. Your enthusiasm for her writing is compelling; I'll have to look into her work but maybe not starting with the Dew Breaker. My teaser/intro is from Amy Tan's The Bonesetter's Daughter: http://wp.me/p4DMf0-15o

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    1. Ms. M - I hope you will give her a try. Maybe start with Farming Bones. :-) I love Amy Tan's work. I hope you are enjoying The Bonesetter's Daughter.

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  18. The The Dew Breaker sounds really familiar. I don't know if it's on my to be read list or I've already read it. If I have read it, it didn't leave a lasting memory with me.

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    1. Vicki - It's been out awhile, and so you may have read it. I definitely prefer the other books by her that I have read.

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  19. I never heard of this book, but it sounds really good.

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    1. Yvonne - This wasn't my favorite of hers, but it was interesting.

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  20. I can see where the different format would be jarring. I have a very difficult time when I expect a book to be a certain way and it turns out to be something completely different. Sometimes it can be fun but most times I find it disappointing. Glad that you are finding that you appreciated and the premise does sound interesting. Merry Christmas!

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    1. Katherine - I try to avoid reading reviews of books right around the time I will be reading them, however, with this one I wish I had. It might have helped. I doubt it I would have loved it even then, but I don't think it would have been quite as jarring. I hope you have a Merry Christmas too!

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  21. The teaser sounds interesting enough to me. I'll definitely be taken aback if the book isn't what I'd expected in the beginning, but sometimes it is a good thing if I'm surprised by the plot or if it offers me some thinking. I'll consider about this book.

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    1. Melody - Yes, sometimes I find it's a good thing when a book isn't what I expected. Most of the time, probably. Unfortunately, not in this case. :-( I think it will still appeal to some and is definitely worth checking out, especially if you like the setting and time period and author.

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  22. There are plenty of statues of hunters around. Torturers... actually some of them around, too.

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    1. Alice Audrey - I don't think he feels he deserves one though.

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