There’s nothing quite like a well-written book to remind you why you love prose fiction.
I believe that Nicole Dennis-Benn is a witch, because this book’s ability to pull you in, the way its characters demand you marvel at the complexities, the good, bad and ugly components that make us human, can only be explained by black magic.
Here comes the sun is a book about black womanhood and trauma passed down through four generations of women: Grandma Merle, Delores, Margot and Thandi. It shows a vicious cycle in motion.
It is a story about generational poverty and gentrification set in River Bay, a sea side community somewhere in Jamaica. The community is described as a tropical wonderland for tourists but a nightmare for the natives who must tolerate the imperialist Wellingtons. At the centre of the story is Margot, a front-desk clerk at one of the Wellingtons’ hotels by day and prostitute by night who fucks all the high-paying hotel guests.
It is revealed later in the story that Margot’s first sexual encounter as a sex worker was when Delores, her mother, sold her off to a man as a child for six hundred US dollars.
Margot holds onto the words of Alphonso Wellington, heir to the wellington empire (who she also fucks). He promises her a job as the hotel’s general manager, and she thinks that through this she will be able to escape Delores and River Bay, that Thandi will become a doctor and take care of her in her old.
Alphonso Wellington goes on to sponsor Thandi’s education in a “prim and proper” catholic school at Margot’s request. And Thandi, who has been groomed to be above the folk in River Bay, groomed to study and pass all nine subjects in her final examinations, comes to an impasse when she discovers she wants something different for herself. Thandi, convinced that the tone of her skin is the reason she is not being validated by her peers, convinced she wants to be stripped of the role of future messiah to the family, goes on to bleach her skin in an attempt to improve her looks so she is more appealing to the type of boys her classmates date.
And then there is Delores, the mother none of us deserves. Delores sells souvenirs to the tourists at River Bay. That affords her the peanuts she contributes to Thandi’s upbringing. But do not be fooled! With Delores, everything comes at a price—even your own dignity. Delores traumatizes Margot from childhood when she discovers Margot is lesbian. She even believes that selling Margot to the tourist for six hundred dollars was the cure to her lesbianism, pushing Margot further back into the closet. But Margot ends up having a secret affair in her adulthood with Verdene Moore, daughter of Miss Ella who often took Margot in when she was a child.
Delores is ugly as an ogre but even ogres have their origin stories. And I won’t say any more because you have to read this book!
Nicole Dennis-Benn writes with a certainness I admire. She shares a relationship so intimate with her characters, it’s reflected in the words penned down on this book. The way she portrays her characters is unmatched, unlike anything I have ever read before. Her words cast a spell that sucks you immediately into the world of River Bay and into the lives of these traumatized characters.
There are no stumbling through paragraphs here. This is all good fiction!