What happens when a woman's desire for independence and romance outweighs her desire to care for her five year old daughter? In Nicole Dennis-Benn's most recent novel, the protagonist simply leaves her child in Jamaica in hopes of finding love and success elsewhere. I can't pretend that I even vaguely sympathize with this move-- but then again, why would I? The trauma that characterized Patsy's life as a black, queer woman in Jamaica is entirely unknown to me. If I have a child, it will be on my own terms and my own timeline. Patsy has never had her own terms, nor has she had her own timeline. She was repeatedly sexually assaulted, and then abandoned by Tru's father to raise a child on her own. Patsy never wanted to be a Mom. She never had a choice. This is the type of trauma that might make a loving parent abandon a loving child.
At the outset of the novel, Tru is already a bouncy, imaginative five year old who idolizes her mother, Patsy. When Patsy leaves Tru to pursue a new life in New York, Patsy promises that she will one day return to Jamaica to fetch her daughter. This a lie. This lie haunts Patsy for the next decade. I'm not sure how you turn your back on your five year old daughter. I'm also not sure how you look in a child's eyes and promise her something you will never give her. But then again, why would I understand any of this?
I loved this book so much. I'm actually embarrassed to say that I've never read Dennis-Benn's first novel, Here Comes the Sun. I will certainly read it later this summer.