Here Comes The Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn
Published by: One World Publications
Release Date: September 2017
Genre: Literary Fiction
In this radiant, highly anticipated debut, a cast of unforgettable women battle for independence while a maelstrom of change threatens their Jamaican village.
Capturing the distinct rhythms of Jamaican life and dialect, Nicole Dennis-Benn pens a tender hymn to a world hidden among pristine beaches and the wide expanse of turquoise seas. At an opulent resort in Montego Bay, Margot hustles to send her younger sister, Thandi, to school. Taught as a girl to trade her sexuality for survival, Margot is ruthlessly determined to shield Thandi from the same fate.
When plans for a new hotel threaten the destruction of their community, each woman – fighting to balance the burdens she shoulders with the freedom she craves – must face long-hidden scars. From a much-heralded new writer, Here Comes the Sun offers a dramatic glimpse into a vibrant, passionate world most outsiders see simply as paradise.
There are so many angles from which one could talk about Here Comes the Sun, a book that has no shortage of discussion material. You could write a thesis on this novel and it still won’t be enough. However, I won’t take too much of your time.
For the purpose of this review, I’ll be sharing my thoughts about the amazing characters in this novel. Amazing not because they saved lives, started uprisings or were just basic upstanding members of society. Amazing because they were freaking epic.
Here Comes the Sun tells the story of 4 women who live in the most beautiful place on earth. 3 of these women, Delores, Margot & Thandi, belong to the same family. The fourth woman, Verdene, is a social outcast thanks to her sexual orientation.
Firstly, I’ll like to state how similar the societal dynamics in Jamaica (as portrayed here) and Nigeria are. The hyper religiousness, hypocrisy, community shaming etc. all felt incredibly familiar.
Delores and Margot are trapped in a cycle of hate and abuse so palpable, I was sure the book would end in a crime of passion (Filicide or Matricide would have been perfectly natural). Click To Tweet Both of these women are hustlers to their own detriment.
Where Margot uses her body to climb the social ladder in trying to secure her future, Delores specialises in selling any and everything to tourists.
The effect of tourism and exposure to foreigners according to Here Comes the Sun isn’t particularly positive. After reading this, I started feeling some type of way about using my money to support the Jamaican tourism industry. As of today, I feel I need more information about how tourism has truly impacted the lives of the locals. Definitely, my itinerary would be different from what I imagined before this book if I ever make it down there.
Back to Delores. Why is she so evil? Nothing from her own experience justifies her level of bitterness. However, her internalized self-loathing has made her incapable of truly loving her children as she physically tortured and emotionally scarred a young Margot.
An older Margot has no qualms selling her soul to the devil as she tells herself that all she does is to secure her family’s future and protect her sister, Thandi, from a similar fate. Now, this is all well and good until you realise how much she expects to be paid in return for her “sacrifice”.
Thandi who has deeply rooted self-esteem issues is a gifted student with a bright future ahead of her. Naturally, the weight of the pressure in the expectations of her family soon have her cracking and acting out. Thandi who has been morphed by her family into a symbol for a brighter future is so lonely and isolated through this book, it’s just painful to watch. she had me worried as her rebelling would have caused her irreparable damage and I was rooting for her to get past that phase in one piece.
Then there’s Verdene, who I couldn’t figure out why she was staying in that community. Why doesn’t Verdene leave? She has the means to but desperately clings to any connection to her mom while enduring unjustifiable abuse and emotional torture at the hands of her neighbours.
Which brings me back to the role religion plays in “African” or even society in general. The hypocrisy on display in Here Comes the Sun is out of this world. While the abuse Verdene endured from the community may have been dramatized for effect, I heard Nicole Dennis-Benn moved to the US in a bid to escape intolerance so this is probably not too far from reality.
Delores, of course, is the most religious character in this book. With her child pimping, hate crime committing ass. Praise the Lord, Jesus.
What I consider pivotal is the point where Delores chooses money over her child. It’s worth noting that no joy came out of that money. Only a child so broken she can barely mimic normal human emotions.
There’s an abundance of misery to pass around this book but it never really got to me. I think that’s a function of the author’s ability to spin an engaging tale.
Epic drama. On reflection, this book would be considered depressing but I would still love to see the movie. It’s a good pick for a book club. Lots of themes to thrash out and absolutely makes for very passionate discussions.