Summary and book reviews of Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat

Breath, Eyes, Memory

by Edwidge Danticat

Breath, Eyes, Memory
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  • First Published:
    May 1998, 236 pages
    Paperback:
    May 1998, 234 pages

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Book Summary

A passionate journey through a landscape charged with the supernatural and scarred by political violence, in a novel that bears witness to the traditions, suffering, and wisdom of an entire people.

At an astonishingly young age, Edwidge Danticat has become one of our most celebrated new novelists, a writer who evokes the wonder, terror, and heartache of her native Haiti--and the enduring strength of Haiti's women--with a vibrant imagery and narrative grace that bear witness to her people's suffering and courage. 

At the age of twelve, Sophie Caco is sent from her impoverished village of Croix-des-Rosets to New York, to be reunited with a mother she barely remembers. There she discovers secrets that no child should ever know, and a legacy of shame that can be healed only when she returns to Haiti--to the women who first reared her. What ensues is a passionate journey through a landscape charged with the supernatural and scarred by political violence, in a novel that bears witness to the traditions, suffering, and wisdom of an entire people.

Chapter 1

A flattened and drying daffodil was dangling off the little card that I had made my aunt Atie for Mother's Day. I pressed my palm over the flower and squashed it against the plain beige cardboard. When I turned the corner near the house, I saw her sitting in an old rocker in the yard, staring at a group of children crushing dried yellow leaves into the ground. The leaves had been left in the sun to dry. They would be burned that night at the konbit potluck dinner.

I put the card back in my pocket before I got to the yard. When Tante Atie saw me, she raised the piece of white cloth she was embroidering and waved it at me. When I stood in front of her, she opened her arms just wide enough for my body to fit into them.

"How was school?" she asked, with a big smile.

She bent down and kissed my forehead, then pulled me down onto her lap.

"School was all right," I said. "I like everything but those reading classes they let parents come to in the afternoon. ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
The questions and discussion topics that follow are designed to enhance your group's reading of Edwidge Danticat's Breath, Eyes, Memory. We hope they will bring to life the many themes with which Danticat builds her story of a young Haitian woman's coming to terms with her country, her mother, and her own identity.


About This Book

Danticat's heroine is Sophie Caco, who has spent a happy childhood in rural Haiti with her grandmother and her beloved aunt Atie, who raised her as her own child. Sophie's mother, Martine, lives in New York City and supports the family with the money she sends home. When Sophie is twelve years old, Martine sends for her, and Sophie must leave the only home and family she knows and ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

New York Times Book Review

Ms. Danticat's clarity of vision takes on the resonance of folk art. Extraordinarily ambitious extraordinarily successful.

The Boston Globe

Magic illuminates the beauty and family life of Haiti in a way no news report has done.

Washington Post Book World

A novel that rewards the reader again and again with small but exquisite and unforgettable epiphanies.

Library Journal - Marie F Jones

The book's strength lies in the rarity of its Haitian viewpoint, a voice seldom heard in American literature. However, the writing itself falls a bit flat. The characters and plot are interesting, but the narrative style doesn't evoke the emotional response that would seem appropriate to the action. Danticat is herself a 24-year-old Haitian American who, like the novel's narrator, came to the United States in her early teens to join her family. Her first novel shows promise of better works in the future. Recommended for larger fiction collections.

Publishers Weekly

A distinctive new voice with a sensitive insight into Haitian culture distinguishes this graceful debut novel about a young girl's coming of age under difficult circumstances....In simple, lyrical prose enriched by an elegiac tone and piquant observations, she makes Sophie's confusion and guilt, her difficult assimilation into American culture and her eventual emotional liberation palpably clear.

Reader Reviews

book lover

AWESOME
I thought this book was remarkable and astonishing :)

Bookjive

Point of View
Different cultures, different women. But more fascinating is the way one’s circumstance affects her vision, her ambition, and her future. Somehow, the book tells us -It is always up to us what we will become, no matter how one’s memories linger…

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