Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When Lauren W. came on the Reading Envy Podcast as a guest for Episode 097, she brought this book to talk about. It wasn't long before I had to try it, and I'm so glad I did.
How did this book pass me by? It is a novel about three women, all related, trying to make their way in a small community in Jamaica. Delores is the mother and matriarch, working hard to make what money she can, completely dependent on the waves of tourists coming through. Margot, her older daughter, appears to work in the service industry for one of the top hotels, but as the story unveils the truth, you learn that she has been selling herself for money, and has been doing so within the context of her employment. She is saving her money for her younger sister, so Thandi can go to school, become a doctor, and escape this very hard life. But Thandi is more focused on a skin-lightening regimen and working on her art. Because she goes to private Catholic school with students who are above her neighborhood's income level, she walks a confusing line between poverty and privilege.
There are other things going on. The sex worker industry seems to be part of the hidden world of the most successful hotels and resorts, and Margot may not be able to work her way out of that the way she thinks. Not only that, a new resort is poised to move in on the land where her entire community lives, and she may play a role in displacing them. Margot is also in love, and with a woman who has already been shunned by the community, since being gay in Jamaica is still very much against the law and a punishable offense. Her neighbors call her a witch and children are afraid of her. The character of Delores ends up having more secrets than anyone, and I was so impressed by how that story was told, and also how she is pretty much unapologetic for what she has done. What choices do the women in this story have?
It is a very well written story, and asks the reader to confront their own role in these issues. I have visited some of these places mentioned in the book, and feel like I have met a Delores and not bought any of her goods. It raises the need for conscious travel, understanding whether your hotel pays local workers ethically, and whether they turn a blind eye to (or profit from) the trafficking of women and sex.
I listened to the audio based on Lauren's recommendation and was quite pleased at the nuance and performance of the narrator, Bahni Turpin. I will be looking for more of her performances for sure.
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