Identity, self-respect, class, social status, same-sex love: these are just some of the topics and themes that Jamaican-born, Brooklyn-based Dennis-Benn addresses in her first novel. Smart and ambitious Margot works at an opulent resort in Montego Bay, but her all-consuming goal in life is to protect her younger sister, Thandi, from the sexual exploitation that she has had to endure to survive. She is determined that Thandi, the family "good girl," will get a proper education and be successful, and, indeed, Thandi has spent her entire high-school years preparing for a crucial examination that will determine her future. But Thandi longs to be an artist, and she attempts to bleach her skin to improve her social status: after all, a lighter complexion means a better future, or at least the potential for it. Both sisters have secrets, from each other and from outsiders. Dennis-Benn reveals a sure hand, creating a world she knows well while offering intimate portraits of characters readers will care deeply about, even as their struggles lead to less-than-stellar choices. An impressive debut. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
A stormy family lives through Jamaica's early 1990s drought in Dennis-Benn's first novel. Delores sells trinkets at a tourist market; her daughter Margot, whom Delores pimped out when Margot was very young, now works as a front desk clerk at a hotel. Margot turns tricks after hours to make extra money to pay her much younger sister Thandi's tuition at a Catholic school. Margot's romantic yearning is directed towards Verdene, a rich woman considered a witch by their village because she is a lesbian. Thandi, the unhappy recipient of her family's hopes, feverishly tries to bleach her skin white and to resist her attraction to her childhood friend Charles, whose poverty would impede her quest for upward mobility. The novel, with its knife fights and baroque blackmail schemes, often threatens to stray from operatic intensity to soap opera melodrama. But Dennis-Benn redeems it with her striking portrayal of a vibrant community where everyone is related and every action reverberates, and her unstinting description of how shame whips desire into submission. (July)
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