Friday, March 12, 2004

More reviews of Edwidge Danticat's new book, The Dew Breaker:

Danticat's The Dew Breaker should only add further luster to her sterling reputation for simple, yet poetic prose and affecting portraits of immigrant life in the difficult gray zone between old country and new country. Her fourth novel is a serious-minded work of a mature talent, a searching examination of murderous terror and its lingering aftershocks on generations....

Danticat unveils their stories in an intricate dance between different characters in past and present time that starts slowly but builds steadily toward the novel's gripping climax. It alternates as well between thematic threads--love and hate, faith and fanaticism, forgiveness and vengeance.

This is a great deal of weight to heft, especially in a short novel, but the 34-year-old writer manages this difficult feat with impressive aplomb. Individual stories may remain sketchy, in a cinematic fashion, but Danticat demonstrates a resonant ability to create character and scene with the telling little detail or the emblematic incident.

Haiti emerges as a country with repeat hemorrhages that never quite heal, a primitive place held together by dictatorial threats that "the land would burn from north to south, east to west. There would be no sunrise and no sunset, just one big flame licking the sky."

-- John Marshall, writing in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Danticat, for all the trickless clarity of her prose, has a nice way of keeping you off-balance as she writes. The way a scene unfolds, the way a story fits by the slightest of threads into the overall scheme of the book--these offer formal pleasures that lend a lift to her sober subject matter. Cool, taut, yet rife with hidden currents and flashes of warmth that bring it to life, The Dew Breaker may be Danticat's finest achievement yet.

-- Michael Upchurch, writing in the Seattle Times.

...Its setting makes The Dew Breaker sound as though it is a political polemic veiled as fiction, but this is not the case. Danticat's rare gift is her ability to set her novels and stories amid fraught times in which the actions of the government cause upheaval in the lives of regular people, without ever once losing focus on her characters. She leaves the preaching to the preachers, such as the dynamic minister who figures in the denouement of The Dew Breaker.

This book, like her others, never wavers in placing its attention on individual lives, and as she moves from one character to another you feel she is holding their faces up to you, each of them locking the reader with a gaze too intense to shirk.

-- Jenny Shank, writing in the Rocky Mountain News.

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