Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Dew Breaker

Last night I finished reading the Dew Breaker. I read it for my book club, which met on Tuesday (I know, I didn't have it finished in time. To my credit, I was only behind by 30 pages). I had mixed feelings about the book. I think I really liked the idea of the book better than the book itself. It focuses on a man who was a Dew Breaker (a member of the Tontons Macoute, a violent Haitian law enforcement group during the reign of Francois Duvalier). His story is told indirectly through the voices of people whose lives were drastically altered by his actions. His daughter, who in th course of the book learns the truth about him, has to change her views of the father she's known her whole life. Each chapter is not really connected to the rest which makes sense because the book contains a few short stories previously published elsewhere by the author, Edwidge Danticat. I think Ms. Danticat comprimised too much by making the stories loosely tied instead of letting the stories stand on their own. When I was reading the book, I spent entirely too much time trying to make connections between the characters. The connections exist, but making them becomes a distraction. Our book club mediator said she liked having to work to put the pieces together, that the story wasn't spoonfed to her. I felt that Ms. Danticat was trying too hard to force the pieces to fit.
I also thought that while the voices were lyrical and the writing was beautiful, there are so many questions that were barely touched upon that in depth would have made an amazing book. For instance, the Dew Breaker's experience with his "last victim" made him give up his position and move to New York to start over. Is anyone ever truly redeemed from these actions? Do people deserve second chances? He didn't tell his wife the true nature of his work until after they were married. Is it possible to love someone despite such a past? And the daughter. What would you think if you discovered your father was guilty of unspeakable crimes? He named her Ka, meaning his good soul and he seemed completely removed of his past. But does that mean he's not accountable for it? I don't know. There's no doubt the Dew Breaker was a good read and a glimpse into Haiti's tumultuous past. It could have been a little longer to deal with some of these questions, however, Ms. Danticat is still a relatively new writer with a lot of growing to do. I think as a author she is someone to keep an eye on in the future.

6 comments:

minnesota blue said...

I also read the Dew Breaker. You obviously got more out of the book than I did. After I finished it, I thought: Well that was a good book. However, while in the process of reading, I found I had to go back and sort through the pages to find the various connections to characters. I found it frustrating at the time. Overall I thought the book average

minnesota blue said...

I also read the Dew Breaker. You obviously got more out of the book than I did. After I finished it, I thought: Well that was a good book. However, while in the process of reading, I found I had to go back and sort through the pages to find the various connections to characters. I found it frustrating at the time. Overall I thought the book average

magnetbabe said...

That was everyone in the group's complaint as well. I wouldn't get nealy as much out of it without them to bounce ideas off of. They are some hard core readers!

Scott said...

That was a good review of the book, and it sounds like one to pass on. I just finished some relative light reading with the latest Harry Potter. Fun book.

labwench said...

see... another Harry Potter fan... one of these days you'll pick up a Harry Potter book. I'll be patient until then.

Hot4Teacha said...

Deep thoughts goin' on in Tampa. Things not so in-depth here in MN. I'm starting "Native Son" off that list you gave me, Nat...the one of the top 100 English-language novels. Will let you know what I think, as I'm sure you've read it. Other than that, I have 2 weeks till school starts officially. To that, I say "Suck it!" I updated my blog if you want to read...