At the age of twelve, Sophie Caco is sent from her impoverished Haitian village 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.
Occasionally the matter-of-fact tone of the swift, simple prose in Breath, Eyes, Memory seems inappropriate for its subject matter -- which includes rape and sexual abuse as well as third world political strife -- but Ms. Danticat's calm clarity of vision takes on the resonance of folk art. In the end, her book achieves an emotional complexity that lifts it out of the realm of the potboiler and into that of poetry ... Ms. Danticat...is extraordinarily ambitious in the number of psychological and intellectual themes she introduces in Breath, Eyes, Memory. She is also extraordinarily successful.
Breath, Eyes, Memory is a novel that rewards a reader again and again with small but exquisite and unforgettable epiphanies. You can actually see Danticat grow and mature, come into her own strength as a writer, throughout the course of this quiet, soul-penetrating story about four generations of women trying to hold on to one another in the Haitian diaspora ... The writing in Breath, Eyes, Memory is loaded with folk wisdom and fairy tales, the imagery of fear and pain, and an understated political subtext that makes this first novel much, much more than the elementary domestic story it might have been, were it not for the author's Haitianness.
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 ... Though her tale is permeated with a haunting sadness, Danticat also imbues it with color and magic, beautifully evoking the pace and character of Creole life, the feel of both village and farm communities ... 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.