The lives of three generations of women in Jamaica intersect as they try to build better lives.
Margot, a 30-year-old desk clerk at a hotel in
Jamaica, has fallen into a side business of sex with the white men who
visit the island looking for poor women to exploit. This, of course, is not the
life Margot wants. She only does it to support her younger sister, Thandi, a 15-year-old schoolgirl who's destined to be successful and “make
everything better” for the family. Thandi, however, is more interested in being
thought beautiful and the type of success that goes along with that, spending her
extra money on skin-lightening creams to turn her dark skin whiter. Thandi's and
Margot’s tales intertwine with the story of their abusive mother, Delores, and the rest of their poverty-stricken community, set against the backdrop of
wealthy white tourists. Margot finds a temporary refuge from the constant
barrage of work and men in her romantic relationship with a local woman named Verdene, but she can't escape the fear of violence that
same-sex couples in their society face. And, as past secrets come to a head,
the poor black and wealthy white worlds of Jamaica collide. This debut novel
from Dennis-Benn is an astute social commentary on the intricacies of race,
gender, wealth inequality, colorism, and tourism. But these themes rise organically from the narrative rather than overwhelming it. Here are visceral,
profound writing and invigorating characters. Here, too, is the deep and
specific sensation of experience. Consider teenage Thandi’s first awareness of
being watched by the boy she likes: “a pulse stirs between
her legs and she hurries down the path, holding it in like pee."
Haunting and superbly crafted, this is a magical book from a writer of immense talent and intelligence.