SLEEP ON, BELOVED by Cecil Foster


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 A sharp-edged, if rather bleak and overdrawn, evocation of the Caribbean immigrant experience in Canada: Barbados-born Foster's second novel after the luminous No Man in the House (1992). While Grandma Nedd, respected elder of a Jamaican Afro- Christian sect, stays home in Jamaica, daughter Ona heads for Toronto, leaving baby Suzanne in Grandma's care. Ona intends to bring the child to live with her as soon as she can, but it'll be 12 years before mother and daughter are reunited. Meanwhile, like many fellow immigrants from the Caribbean, Ona finds her new life difficult and frightening--experiences she can never share with relatives back home since sharing would give the lie to the fabled good life up north. Ona's employers greedily garnishee most of her wages, her boss rapes her repeatedly, and she's forced to flee and become an illegal immigrant. With a friend's help, though, she slowly remakes her life: She marries Joe, another immigrant, and eventually sends money for Suzanne to come to Canada. Once there, however, Suzanne feels closer to her grandmother than to Ona and has difficulty adjusting to such a ``cold and heartless'' country-- a place so unlike ``warm and sweet and comforting'' Jamaica. Cultural differences lead to trouble at school, and soon Suzanne is in with a bad crowd, accepting her stepfather's sexual attentions, fighting constantly with her mother. Ona uses her role as primary wage-earner to try to hold the family together, but her daughter drops out of school and becomes a dancer at a club. Troubled by nightmares filled with incessant drumming, Suzanne imagines herself as two separate people. After Grandmother Nedd dies, however, redemption is at hand--though not without pain or cost. A moving--though sometimes one-dimensional--account of the immigrant struggle. (First printing of 25,000)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-345-39015-6
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1995


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