PATSY by Nicole Dennis-Benn
Kirkus Star

PATSY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A woman comes to terms with how her immigration to America affects her family back home in Jamaica—and herself.

For the follow-up to her highly acclaimed debut novel, Here Comes the Sun (2016), Dennis-Benn returns briefly to Jamaica before shifting her locale to Brooklyn. It’s 1998, and single mother Patsy isn't able to get a tourist visa at the American Embassy in Kingston until she agrees to leave Trudy-Ann, her 5-year-old daughter, behind. Patsy’s American dreams are not just about a better financial future for Tru; she has long hoped to reunite with the love of her life, her childhood girlfriend, Cicely, now living in Brooklyn. But her dreams are stymied by the difficult reality of finding work in New York—despite Patsy’s best efforts, the only employment she can find is as a bathroom attendant, cleaning toilets—and by Cicely’s marriage to an abusive, overbearing man. Cicely, now a woman “smelling of expensive flowers and looking resplendent in a long purple peacoat cinched at the waist with a belt, a colorful silk scarf wrapped around her neck, still holding on to her Chanel handbag,” would rather stay with her husband than lose the lifestyle his wealth provides her. Tru, meanwhile, is sent to live with the father she doesn’t know. Alternating between Patsy's and Tru's stories, Dennis-Benn allows each character’s experience an equal depth and presence in the book. Slowly Patsy comes into her own, finding work as a nanny, but as Tru comes of age back in Jamaica missing her mother, Patsy, looking after another woman’s child, is haunted by the absence of her own daughter and the choices she must continue to make to survive in America, alone. Although she's lovingly drawn by Dennis-Benn, Patsy has done the single most-damning thing a mother can do in our society: She has abandoned her child. It's a marker of Dennis-Benn’s masterful prowess at characterization and her elegant, nuanced writing that the people here—even when they're flawed or unlikable—inspire sympathy and respect.

Dennis-Benn has written a profound book about sexuality, gender, race, and immigration that speaks to the contemporary moment through the figure of a woman alive with passion and regret.

Pub Date: June 4th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-63149-563-2
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Liveright/Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2019




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