A “Pandora’s box of the whys” has earned Anna Sinclair, a Caribbean-American immigrant, the position of editor of Equiano, a specialty imprint of Windsor, a New York publishing house.
But Anna is divorced, nearing 40, coping with an ailing mother and facing complications at work. In Nunez’s (Anna In-Between, 2009, etc.) latest, the author further explores immigrant life, a life where a hard-working woman can progress up the corporate ladder, buy an apartment in a soon-to-be trendy neighborhood, and still be plagued by outsider’s angst. The story begins with Anna, edits completed on a promising literary novel, visiting her home island. She finds her mother refusing medical attention for obvious breast cancer. Anna pressures her to seek care. Eventually the case comes to Paul Bishop, a family friend and now a prominent surgeon in New Jersey. Paul agrees to perform the operation if Anna’s mother agrees to have it done off-island. Paul also persuades Anna that they might find a personal connection. Anna’s intrigued, but she is anxious about mother’s condition and stressed by dramatic changes at work, including a new “assistant editor” hired without her input. The book expands to follow Anna into the jungle of modern-day publishing. After promises and subterfuge, the new hire, Tim Greene, an African-American with an unconventional childhood, becomes her boss. He closes her specialty imprint, making clear he believes her heritage leaves her disconnected audiences who want “chick-lit” and “ghetto-lit.” Anna feels lost, trapped by cultural discrimination. She grows as a sympathetic character, and the author brings her reticent British-black culture parents to life as they travel to the U.S., cope with surgery, reveal themselves. Anna begins to understand her parents’ love for her in spite of their reserved nature, and she finds their wisdom, and Paul’s love, key to coping with the discrimination she faces at work.
A thoughtful literary novel exploring the shadows of cultural identity and the mirage of assimilation.