The Dew Breaker

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The Dew Breaker

by Edwidge Danticat

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group | March 8, 2005 | Trade Paperback |

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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--s 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.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 256 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.39 in

Published: March 8, 2005

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1400034299

ISBN - 13: 9781400034291

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– More About This Product –

The Dew Breaker

by Edwidge Danticat

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 256 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.39 in

Published: March 8, 2005

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1400034299

ISBN - 13: 9781400034291

Read from the Book

The Book of the Dead 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 him, my father. The hotel manager—mr. flavio salinas, the plaque on his office door reads—has the most striking pair of chartreuse eyes I’ve ever seen on a man with an island Spanish lilt to his voice. The police officer, Officer Bo, is a baby-faced, short, white Floridian with a potbelly. “Where are you and your daddy from, Ms. Bienaimé?” Officer Bo asks, doing the best he can with my last name. He does such a lousy job that, even though he and I and Salinas are the only people in Salinas’ office, at first I think he’s talking to someone else. I was born and raised in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, and have never even been to my parents’ birthplace. Still, I answer “Haiti” because it is one more thing I’ve always longed to have in common with my parents. Officer Bo plows forward with, “You all the way down here in Lakeland from Haiti?” “We live in New York,” I say. “We were on our way to Tampa.” “To do what?” Officer Bo continues. “Visit?” “To deliver a sculpture,” I say. “I’m an artist, a sculptor.” I’m really not an artist, not in the way I’d like to be. I
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From the Publisher

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--s 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.

From the Jacket

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--s 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.

About the Author

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 the 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 Beacon Best of 2000: Great Writing by Men and Women of All Colors and Cultures.

Editorial Reviews

“Courageous. . . . Beautiful. . . . The Dew Breaker is brilliant book, undoubtedly the best one yet by an enormously talented writer.” -- The Washington Post Book World “Ms. Danticat’s most persuasive, organic performance yet. . . . Each tale in The Dew Breaker could stand on its own as a beautifully made story, but they come together like jigsaw-puzzle pieces to create a picture of this man''s terrible history and his and his victims'' afterlife.” — The New York Times “Filled with quiet intensity and elegant, thought-provoking prose. . . . An elegiac and powerful novel with a fresh presentation of evil and the healing potential of forgiveness.” -- People “Luminous. . . . This is a tale of crime and punishment in the great tradition of Dostoevsky.” — The Baltimore Sun “A devastating story of love, delusion, and history.” — O, The Oprah Magazine “ Danticat’s gift is to combine both sympathy and clarity in a moral tangle that becomes as tight as a Haitian community.” — Time “Breathtaking . . . With terrifying wit and flowered pungency, Edwidge Danticat has managed over the past 10 years to portray the torment of the Haitian people . . . In The Dew Breaker , Danticat has written a Haitian truth: prisoners all, even the jailers.” – The New York Times Book Review “Danticat [is] surely one of contemporary fiction’s most sensitive conveyors of hop
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Bookclub Guide

US

1. Why does Danticat use multiple narrators to tell the story? How do these shifting points of view affect the way the story is told? How do they affect the way readers absorb and understand the events described in the book?

2. Why does Danticat begin The Dew Breaker with Ka's father's confession and then return, near the end of the book to the moment some thirty years earlier when he committed his last crime? Is this way of structuring the events more powerful than chronologically telling the story?

3. Ka says about her father, "If anyone could, [he] must have already understood that confessions do not lighten living hearts" [p. 33]. Why would he understand this better than others? Why then does he confess his secret past to his daughter? What role does guilt-his own and that of others-play in this book?

4. For her sculpture of her father, Ka chooses "a piece of mahogany that was naturally flawed, with a few superficial cracks along what was now the back. I'd thought these cracks beautiful and had made no effort to polish them away, as they seemed like the wood's own scars, like the one my father had on his face" [p. 7]. What does this passage suggest about the differences between Ka and her father? In what ways has he tried to "polish away"
his own scars?

5. What do the stories of Eric, Michel, Dany, Nadine, Beatrice, and Freda add to the book? In what ways are their lives intertwined with Ka's father? What effect has the "dew breaker" had on them?

6. Claude tells Dany, "I am the luckiest fucker alive," because in killing his father, he has "done something really bad that makes me want to live my life like a fucking angel now" [p. 119]. Does The Dew Breaker seem to suggest that people can redeem themselves even after committing acts of horrific violence? How might this conversation affect Dany's feelings about his landlord, the "dew breaker," the man who killed his own mother and father?

7. Beatrice tells the reporter Aline, "Everything happens when it's meant to happen" [p. 125]. Can this axiom be applied to the book itself? Do things in the book happen when they are "meant" to happen? What significant events in the unfolding of the characters' lives seem fated?

8. How does The Dew Breaker, though a work of fiction, convey the reality of life under the Duvalier dictatorship more vividly and emotionally than a work of history or investigative journalism might?

9. Some regard the preacher's outspoken sermons against the Duvalier dictatorship as selfish. "Not all the church members agreed with the preacher's political line. . . . Some would even tell you, 'If the pastor continues like this, I leave the church. He should think about his life. He should think about our lives'" [p. 186]. His own sister, Anne, wonders, "What made him think he could denounce the powerful on the radio, of all places, and not risk the safety of those he loved?" [p. 215]. Is the preacher right in speaking out against the regime, even when it puts his loved ones and his congregation in danger?

10. After the preacher wounds "the fat man," he thinks, "at least he'd left a mark on him, a brand that he would carry for the rest of his life. Every time he looked in the mirror, he would have to confront this mark and remember him. Whenever people asked what happened to his face, he would have to tell a lie, a lie that would further remind him of the truth" [pp. 227-28]. What effect, both good and bad, does this last act of violence have on the "dew breaker"? How does it change him?

11. At the end of the book, as Anne is telling her daughter more about her father's past, Ka hangs up, leaving Anne with a recording telling her to "hang up and try again" [p. 241]. Why has Danticat chosen to end The Dew Breaker in this open-ended way? Will Anne try again to explain her husband's past? Will Ka ever forgive him? Should he be forgiven?

12. Why does Ka's mother marry the "dew breaker"? Why does she stay with him after learning the truth about the identity of his last victim? What does the reconciliation between Ka's parents-to each other, and to the truth-tell us about the nature of forgiveness, of recovery, and of healing? And how does the last section of the story told in The Dew Breaker bring us back full circle to the beginning?

13. In what ways is Ka's father a complex character? What motivates him to join the Volunteers? How does he rationalize killing the preacher? What does he wish he could give the boy who brings him cigarettes as he's waiting to arrest the preacher? What does he enjoy about the pain he inflicts on his prisoners? How should he be judged, finally?

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