February 21, 2017

Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn | Book Review

Margot works as a front desk clerk at the Palm Star Resort in Jamaica. During the day she answers the phones, welcomes guests, oversees the hotel staff and sees to it that guests are comfortable and well taken care of. At night Margot heads to the rooms of guests who earlier in the day put in orders for sex using code words like "sundae" and "ackee". She has dreams of rising past her current job post and she's doing her best to show her boss that she deserves a promotion.

Delores is Margot's mother and while Margot hustles night and day at the hotel, Delores labors under the scorching Jamaican sun selling souvenirs to tourists. She heads out to her market stall every day with her wares, lures tourists over and then exploits them. It's hard work. The Jamaican sun burns and the heat suffocates but her second daughter is the light at the end of the tunnel. She dreams of the day Thandi will become a medical doctor and rescue her from misery and penury.

Thandi is Margot's sister and Delores second daughter. She's the one who's being aggressively set up to succeed. She's the one expected to rise high and fly far. She's the basket into which Delores and Margot have put their precious eggs. Thandi is book smart and going to the best school in the area through a scholarship Margot wangled from Alphonso Wellington her boss at Palm Resort Hotel. Margot and Delores have drilled into Thandi that a good education and good grades is her only escape. It's the only thing that can elevate Thandi above this mess of a life and take her far far away from their shack. The dollars Margot and Delores stash away is used to make Thandi comfortable and see that she lacks nothing that she needs. They even let her skip household chores just so she can concentrate on getting the best grades possible to guarantee entrance into medical school. Thandi does as she's asked but she's not interested in being a doctor. She wants to be an artist and the little encouragement given to her by a schoolteacher sows a seed that threatens to undo all the effort that has been put into Thandi.

Here Comes the Sun is my 3rd book selection for Black History Month here on Incessant Scribble. I discovered this novel and my 2nd book selection, The Mothers by Brit Bennett, in the article My Year of Reading Books by Black Women written by Alisha Acquaye for Elle Magazine. Here Comes the Sun is a great book selection especially for Black History Month for many reasons one of which is that it deals with uncomfortable topics in black communities such as rape, homosexuality and colorism. It pushes the reader to confront these topics and to notice how they affect all our lives directly or indirectly. I think that makes this material more powerful and many times more arresting.

I need to discuss Delores and Margot but I'll try not to give much away. I think it's easier to tag Delores a monster and file her character away than to pay attention to everything that we know about her and acknowledge that she's the way she is because of the cards life has dealt her. She's just like the rest of us. So even though she's cold and unloving and even though she tears down her daughter's dreams and tears down their confidence. Even though she has fed her daughter to ravenous wolves on numerous occasions she's still a human being with her own demons and insecurities. Honestly there were a couple of times when I wanted someone to hug her and somehow heal her emotional wounds.

Margot is very ambitious. She may not be as book smart as her little sister, she may not have the
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education and exposure she needs to get the job she wants, and she may not have had a gentle, loving childhood but she doesn't let those things hold her back from her goals. She's ruthless in her pursuit of them tossing morals aside, sacrificing lives, breaking hearts, burning bridges and shattering homes. On page 196 she does something so savage that my eyes widened in disbelief and I put down the novel. It was already past midnight and I was still trying to recover from the shock and pain of watching Beyonce, just hours before, lose the Grammy for Album of the Year for her groundbreaking album LEMONADE, which she more than deserved. It was all just too much for one night so I went to bed. At first Margot seems better than her mother but in the end I'm not sure where to put her so to speak. She has mined the darkness of her childhood, adolescence and adulthood and used all of that to fuel her way forward. So at the end of the novel, however volatile her situation may seem to some readers, however pyrrhic her victory may seem to some readers, it's important to note that she survived. It's important to applaud that she held her head above water and went for every single thing she ever wanted. And anyone, anyone who has ever come from nothing. Anyone who grew up in poverty and lived in "shacks", and has forever known deep, deep, deep thirst for the better and nicer things in life will relate to Margot in some measure. I love this novel. I love it. I love it. I love it. You need to read it.

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READ My Other Black History Month Selections!!!
Book #1: The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis | Book Review
Book #2: The Mothers by Brit Bennett | Book Review

2 comments:

  1. This has been on my TBR since it came out last summer. Some other readers didn't think the ending was that great, but this review is encouraging!

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    Replies
    1. I wonder why they didn't like it. I loved it. I hope you do too when you get to it.

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