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Publisher's Summary

From the universally acclaimed author of Breath, Eyes, Memory and Krik? Krak!, a brilliant, deeply moving work of fiction that explores the world of a "dew breaker", a torturer, a man whose brutal crimes in the country of his birth lie hidden beneath his new American reality.

We meet him late in his life. He is a quiet man, a husband and father, a hardworking barber, a kindly landlord to the men who live in a basement apartment in his home. He is a fixture in his Brooklyn neighborhood, recognizable by the terrifying scar on 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: his devoted wife and rebellious daughter; his sometimes unsuspecting, sometimes apprehensive neighbors, tenants, and clients. And we meet some of his victims.

In the book's powerful denouement, we return to the Haiti of the dew breaker's past, to his last, desperate act of violence, and to his first encounter with the woman who will offer him a form of redemption, albeit imperfect, that will change him forever. The Dew Breaker is a book of interconnected lives, a book of love, remorse, and hope; of rebellions both personal and political; of the compromises we often make in order to move beyond the most intimate brushes with history. Unforgettable, deeply resonant, The Dew Breaker proves once more that in Edwidge Danticat we have a major American writer.

Hear Edwidge Danticat, Dave Eggers, Cynthia Ozick, and Orhan Pamuk discuss literature and politics at The New Yorker Festival. Also, don't miss Danticat's conversation with Chang-rae Lee.
©2004 Edwidge Danticat; (P)2004 Recorded Books

Critic Reviews

  • PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist, 2005

"Courageous. . . . Beautiful. . . . The Dew Breaker is brilliant book, undoubtedly the best one yet by an enormously talented writer." (The Washington Post Book World)
"Danticat's gift is to combine both sympathy and clarity in a moral tangle that becomes as tight as a Haitian community." (Time)
"A devastating story of love, delusion, and history." (O, The Oprah Magazine)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 3.7 out of 5.0
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Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5.0
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Story

  • 4.1 out of 5.0
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Sort by:
  • Overall
  • Andrea
  • Centennial, CO, USA
  • 05-06-05

Spell-binding

Edwidge Danticat has taken several disparate elements--stories from various times and set in various places--and baked a delicious cake with them. Each chapter is a short story in itself, but they are all brought together by the person of the "dew breaker:" a man whose job it was to come in the early morning hours to drag people away for torture and killing under the Duvalier regimes in Haiti. Not knowing until the end how each story relates to the others adds to the tension of this well-written story.

The icing on the cake, though, is the reading, which incorporates Creole, French, American-Creole and American inner-city Ebonics (sometimes more than one of these are heard in the same conversation) to deliver a far better reading than I could have supplied for myself.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Almost, but not quite

This book was a great character study, but it didn't go far enough. We meet many characters once, hear part of their story, but never learn why they're important to the story, other than that they once knew the barber. Lots of pieces are left hanging. The book summary suggests that the Dew Breaker turned his life around because of the woman he meets ... I would say he was actually motivated by fear of capture and death at the hands of his former colleagues, when he bungled a job. It felt like the book ended, when it was really only halfway through the potential story. Too bad.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Mark
  • Winston Salem, NC, USA
  • 08-09-04

Disjointed

I just couldn't get into this book. I found it confusing - switching to completely different characters in every chapter, half the time I didn't know who they were talking about or how they fit into the whole scheme of things. It had potential as a book, but it never made me care because of the rapid shifting. Sometimes an audible book just grabs you - with this one, I kept having to force myself to concentrate harder and harder to figure out what was going on and the author's story line just wasn't worth the concentration, imho.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Angie
  • Kansas City, MO, United States
  • 09-15-06

Excellent Narrator

Interesting story, excellent narrator, the story was a little hard to follow at times, but comes together nicely at the end.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Confusing

I had a hard time with this one. I think there was a great story in there, but I am not sure. I was pretty confused, unsure who was who and how they related to each other. Maybe if I listened again things would snap into place and I might add a star or even two. But from just one listen I was kind of frustrated.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

great book

slowly realizing the points and importance of each chapter made it an interesting listening experience.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Beautiful narrative that requires patience

Any additional comments?

4.5
Danticat is a powerful writer who tackles intense topics. The Dew Breaker is no exception. This novel blends and blurs the idea of short stories and novels and succeeds wonderfully. The different POVs move through space and time but stay within the history and culture of Haitians and Haitian Americans and that is part of what unites the chapters.

The violent history of Haiti's dictators and the impact they had on generations is explored, as are the ideas of repentance, reconciliation, and what freedom means. This is not an easy book to read, and the people portrayed are complex and flawed. Danticat paints these intensely colored miniature portraits that capture the essence and certain details of the lives she writes about, but we never get the full story.

The one flaw was that, whether by nature of the format or because some portraits just gave that tiny bit more that let us empathize or glean a bit of understanding, some fell short of the majority... and those left me wanting that tiny bit more.

The flaw is a small one, and the work is intense and horrifying and beautiful.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Hypnotic!!

How the mother and father meet left me in awe of this author!!
I'm a fan from now and forever!!

  • Overall
  • Pamela
  • Sonoma, CA, United States
  • 04-14-09

feels like short stories, not a novel

Disappointing. The description of this book made me think it was a novel, but there are too many individual characters for the stories to inter-relate and hang together well. It just feels like a collection of short stories, which is too bad, because the premise is interesting. Fewer characters of more depth, and better written interwoven story lines would make this so much better. But if the author was a better writer/editor, then the author would be a better writer/editor.

  • Overall
  • Shaula
  • Seattle, WA, USA
  • 08-19-08

enchanting

I found the story fascinating and the narration enchanting, a fabulous break away from everyday. I liked the short-story segmentation for listening in segments over a several week period. I got a little lost when there were long gaps between listens, but this experience got me hooked on audiobooks.