Her hope wilts on its stem before it can bloom into promise.
Here Comes the Sun is about a family of Jamaican women. Margot has been working hard for years for the fancy hotel resort; and secretly sleeping with the foreigners there for extra money to support her family. Her mom forced her to do some unspeakable things as a child, and her main focus is to provide enough money so that her little sister Thandi can avoid the same fate. It’s largely Margot’s extra flow of cash and monstrous ambition that allows Thandi to attend a good private school, where her family just knows that she’ll succeed and one day get a glamorous job that will save them all from a lifetime of poverty. Thandi, however, has things other than school on her mind. Her whole life, she’s seen the positive impact that having lighter skin can get you so she starts sneaking off to a local woman who helps her lighten her skin. For Thandi, lighter skin means more opportunity, more popularity, more safety, and more beauty. Dolores is their mother, and she spends her days selling junk to white tourists. It’s never enough to pay the bills, but she never appreciates what Margot contributes and hangs all of her hopes for a better life on Thandi.
In a country where the tourism industry continues to wreak it’s havoc on the local populace, the people have few options. When all that you’re doing isn’t enough, what else are you willing to do to save yourself and your family? And how do you deal with the fact that those sacrifices might hurt the very people you’re trying to protect?
As you might be able to tell, this is not a happy novel. The bright cover and happy-sounding title are almost in jest, because by the end I just felt a little hopeless. But it touches on SO many important issues – race, homophobia, rape, skin politics, capitalism, prostitution, insecurities, and more. The despair feels so real, which is one of the things that makes this a great book. Nicole Dennis-Benn is a really talented writer and I can’t wait to see what else she writes. I’d feel weird saying that I “enjoyed” the book, since there was so much devastation, but it was well worth the read and definitely deserves the buzz it’s been getting.
(And if you’re participating in #DiverseAThon this week, this would be a good book to include in your reading pile.)