A murderer's tale of redemption
<B>A murderer's tale of redemption</B>Though published in the year of Haiti's bicentennial, Edwidge Danticat's <B>The Dew Breaker</B> is certainly not a celebratory book. The novel is structured as interconnected stories and centers on a dew breaker or, in Haitian Creole, a <I>shoukÂt laroze</I> the name for a torturer during the brutal regimes of FranÂois "Papa Doc" and Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier.
Danticat's fictional dew breaker left Haiti for the U.S. after the regime's fall, and he now has a wife and adult daughter. His years of concealing his terrible work included keeping Ka, the daughter, in the dark about her father's past. Ka and Anne, his wife, are the dew breaker's "good angels." The reader first sees the dew breaker through Ka's eyes, both before his mask is removed and after, when she learns her father was a torturer rather than a prisoner, as she had always believed. The following chapters move back and forth through time, giving the reader glimpses of the torturer from the points of view of those closest to him: his family, his neighbors and his prey. Danticat does a masterful job of creating sympathetic moments for the reformed murderer and examining the nature of forgiveness even in the face of unspeakable acts. <B>The Dew Breaker</B> is similar in form to <I>Krik? Krak!</I>, an earlier Danticat story collection that gave voice to characters in Haiti and the United States. As in that collection, Danticat shows her skill here for interweaving different voices and bringing them to life. <B>The Dew Breaker's</B> focus on the torturer, however, is what unites the narrative and gives the novel its structure. Even when the dew breaker does not appear in a chapter, the dread of his attack or discovery hangs over the characters. Danticat's challenging novel draws readers deep into Haiti's dark past, causing us to question our notions of good and evil and the limits of redemption. <I>Bernadette Adams Davis is a playwright and reviewer in Florida.</I>