From Publishers Weekly
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 chaptersmost of which were published previously as stories, with the first three appearing in the New Yorkercan 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.
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*Starred Review* Three Haitian women living in New York drink to "the terrible days behind us and the uncertain days ahead," thus succinctly denoting the resonant theme of Danticat's beautifully lucid fourth work of fiction: the baffling legacy of violence and the unanswerable questions of exile. In compelling and richly imagined linked stories of the Haitian diaspora, the author of The Farming of the Bones
(1999) portrays the children of parents who either perpetuated or suffered the cruelties of the island's bloody dictatorships, young women and men who struggle to make sense of the madness that poisoned their childhoods. The book's pivotal, and most riveting, sections portray a man who works for the state as a torturer, or "dew breaker," until a catastrophic encounter with a heroic preacher induces him to flee to New York, where his sculptor daughter finally learns of his past under caustically ironic circumstances. Danticat's masterful depiction of the emotional and spiritual reverberations of tyranny and displacement reveals the intricate mesh of relationships that defines every life, and the burden of traumatic inheritances: the crimes and tragedies that one generation barely survives, the next must reconcile. Donna SeamanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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