Excerpt from The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Dew Breaker

by Edwidge Danticat

The Dew Breaker
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2004, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2005, 256 pages

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Print Excerpt


"I’ll put the word out with the other boys," he says. "Salinas here will be in his office. Why don’t you go on back to your hotel room in case your daddy shows up there?"



Back in the room, I lie in my father’s unmade bed. The sheets smell like his cologne, an odd mix of lavender and lime that I’ve always thought too pungent, but that he likes nonetheless.

I jump up when I hear the click from the electronic key in the door. It’s the maid. She’s a young Cuban woman who is overly polite, making up for her lack of English with deferential gestures: a great big smile, a nod, even a bow as she backs out of the room. She reminds me of my mother when she has to work on non-Haitian clients at her beauty shop, how she pays much more attention to those clients, forcing herself to laugh at jokes she barely understands and smiling at insults she doesn’t quite grasp, all to avoid being forced into a conversation, knowing she couldn’t hold up her end very well.



It’s almost noon when I pick up the phone and call my mother at the salon. One of her employees tells me that she’s not yet returned from the Mass she attends every day. After the Mass, if she has clients waiting, she’ll walk the twenty blocks from the church to the salon. If she has no appointments, then she’ll let her workers handle the walk-ins and go home for lunch. This was as close to retirement as my mother would ever come. This routine was her dream when she first started the shop. She had always wanted a life with room for daily Mass and long walks and the option of sometimes not going to work.

I call my parents’ house. My mother isn’t there either, so I leave the hotel number on the machine.

"Please call as soon as you can, Manman," I say. "It’s about Papa."



It’s early afternoon when my mother calls back, her voice cracking with worry. I had been sitting in that tiny hotel room, eating chips and candy bars from the vending ma-chines, chain-smoking and waiting for something to happen, either for my father, Officer Bo, or Manager Salinas to walk into the room with some terrible news or for my mother or Gabrielle Fonteneau to call. I took turns imagining my mother screaming hysterically, berating both herself and me for thinking this trip with my father a good idea, then envisioning Gabrielle Fonteneau calling to say that we shouldn’t have come on the trip. It had all been a joke. She wasn’t going to buy a sculpture from me after all, especially one I didn’t have.

"Where Papa?" Just as I expected, my mother sounds as though she’s gasping for breath. I tell her to calm down, that nothing bad has happened. Papa’s okay. I’ve just lost sight of him for a little while.

"How you lost him?" she asks.

"He got up before I did and disappeared," I say.

"How long he been gone?"

I can tell she’s pacing back and forth in the kitchen, her slippers flapping against the Mexican tiles. I can hear the faucet when she turns it on, imagine her pushing a glass underneath it and filling it up. I hear her sipping the water as I say, "He’s been gone for hours now. I don’t even believe it myself."

"You call police?"

Now she’s probably sitting at the kitchen table, her eyes closed, her fingers sliding back and forth across her forehead. She clicks her tongue and starts humming one of those mournful songs from the Mass, songs that my father, who attends church only at Christmas, picks up from her and also hums to himself in the shower.

My mother stops humming just long enough to ask, "What the police say?"

"To wait, that he’ll come back."

There’s a loud tapping on the line, my mother thumping her fingers against the phone’s mouthpiece; it gives me a slight ache in my ear.

Excerpted from The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat Copyright© 2004 by Edwidge Danticat. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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