A Beautifully Layered Portrait Of Motherhood, Immigration, And The Sacrifices We Make In The Name Of Love From Award Winning Novelist Nicole Dennis Benn.When Patsy Gets Her Long Coveted Visa To America, It Comes After Years Of Yearning To Leave Pennyfield, The Beautiful But Impoverished Jamaican Town Where She Was Raised More Than Anything, Patsy Wishes To Be Reunited With Her Oldest Friend, Cicely, Whose Letters Arrive From New York Steeped In The Promise Of A Happier Life And The Possible Rekindling Of Their Young Love But Patsy S Plans Don T Include Her Overzealous, Evangelical Mother Or Even Her Five Year Old Daughter, Tru.Beating With The Pulse Of A Long Witheld Confession, Patsy Gives Voice To A Woman Who Looks To America For The Opportunity To Choose Herself First Not To Give A Better Life To Her Family Back Home Patsy Leaves Tru Behind In A Defiant Act Of Self Preservation, Hoping For A New Start Where She Can Be, And Love, Whomever She Wants But When Patsy Arrives In Brooklyn, America Is Not As Cicely S Treasured Letters Described To Survive As An Undocumented Immigrant, She Is Forced To Work As A Bathroom Attendant And Nanny Meanwhile, Tru Builds A Faltering Relationship With Her Father Back In Jamaica, Grappling With Her Own Questions Of Identity And Sexuality, And Trying Desperately To Empathize With Her Mother S Decision.Expertly Evoking The Jittery Streets Of New York And The Languid Rhythms Of Jamaica, Patsy Weaves Between The Lives Of Patsy And Tru In Vignettes Spanning Than A Decade As Mother And Daughter Ultimately Find A Way Back To One Another. Nicole Dennis Benn has written an engrossing novel about a woman who chooses herself over her child in emigrating, alone, to the US and estranging herself from her young daughter There is a really epic, sprawling quality to this novel, this sense of grandness in seeing Patsy make a life for herself in the States and, slowly, messily, grow into who she should be There is a love story at the heart of this a childhood love that could become something if only it was easier for people to get out of their own way And then there is another love story that rises out of people finding each other when they need them most Intertwined with Patsy s story is that of her daughter, Tru, who grows into a formidable soccer player in Jamaica, but must try to find a place for herself in her community as she defies expectations of who she should be while nurturing the grief of an absent mother It s a lot and I turned the pages mighty fast, just wanting and of this story I did have a couple things I struggled with Some of the description was too much Like girl, I got it, let s move on Just pages and pages to describe one thing And then you re like oh shit it s only been five minutes in the story WHAT And the ending was a bit tidy Now, I loved the ending but it felt rushed after the first few hundred pages feeling so dense These are quibbles The writing here is lush, passionate, honest Definitely recommend. Such a powerful, well written novel about Patsy, a woman who leaves Jamaica and her daughter behind to pursue an independent life in America, only to encounter a fractured version of the American dream full of challenges I loved this book because the characters feel so complex and human and Nicole Dennis Benn writes their emotions with such rawness and vibrancy For example, Patsy leaves her daughter behind in large part because she had her daughter before she felt ready for motherhood Dennis Benn describes the negative effects this abandonment has on Tru, holding Patsy accountable for her actions, while also displaying Patsy s own suffering and desire for freedom in a way that humanizes her and made me root for her This complexity of character extends to others in the novel as well, ranging from Roy, a problematic yet ultimately present father for Tru, to Tru herself, a young woman curious about her mother while also fighting to break free from the strict gender roles in her Jamaican town Patsy s fierce leaning toward independence, Tru s angst and feelings of loneliness, Roy s persistent love for Tru, all resonated with me and imbued Patsy with so much heart I most appreciated Patsy and Tru s resilience and growth over time in the face of so many life obstacles, though of course it should not be their responsibility to be resilient when the barriers the systemic forms of oppression they face sexism, racism, etc are what need to be dismantled.I also appreciated the diversity and political themes in Patsy A book that so thoughtfully and honestly captures the immigrant experience, its trials and tribulations, is quite fitting in 2019 I wrote down so many little yet meaningful moments and themes to bring up in my feminist book club, including when Patsy has to work as a nanny for a white woman who is writing about Jamaica i.e., cultural appropriation exploitation , to the pressure for undocumented women to marry men so they could secure their status in America, to the stigma against mental health and capitalism s complete disregard for mental wellbeing While the novel is a little long in parts, I d still thoroughly recommend it, including to fans of books like Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, and Where d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. NO SPOILERS Given the premise, Patsy should have been emotionally resonant Nicole Dennis Benn wrote about the experience of a Jamaican immigrant Patsy in America after she leaves her young daughter Tru behind in Jamaica The relationship between the two isn t established strongly, so I didn t feel the sadness Dennis Benn wanted me to feel The main character s struggle to understand and accept her sexual identity feels similarly distant Also disappointing is the shallow depiction of the immigrant experience In portraying the practical side of this, Dennis Benn mostly succeeded I felt the main character s desperation to find a job and make a decent living wage in New York City, no less as she got dangerously close to homelessness What I didn t feel as well was her inner life I imagine many immigrants feel extreme culture shock after arriving in America, but aside from having Patsy note certain differences in her new physical environment for example, stores and number of white people , Dennis Benn never delved into how frightening and even depressing such culture shock must be She over intellectualized this character s thoughts so that Patsy spends time analyzing and brooding but not truly feeling her pain and anxiety over many things as she deals with a lot that Dennis Benn failed to explore I believe Dennis Benn could have improved this with several scenes showing the character s guilt and anguish over the abandonment of her daughter, fear in her new country, and worry over her sudden, significant physical change also unexplored, so it feels pointless The story is split so that some chapters are about Patsy and others about Tru in Jamaica The same problems apply to Tru s chapters The girl also struggles to adjust to life without her beloved mother, but Dennis Benn instead showed Tru s day to day life, especially her love of soccer She only touched upon the girl s sadness with view spoiler very brief scenes of self harm and rage over an unfitting gift from her mother hide spoiler I thoroughly enjoyed reading Nicole Dennis Benn s debut novel Here Comes The Sun so much so Patsy was one of my most sought after ARC for 2019.We meet Patsy, a twenty something Jamaican living in Pennyfield what one would call a ghetto Patsy is a government worker, but gets paid so little, she ends up doing some on the side work that is she not too proud about Patsy is the sole breadwinner, but she is hardly able to provide for her daughter Tru and her mother who stopped working after finding the Lord because the Lord will provide Of course, Patsy now have to pick up the slack that the Lord doesn t fill By all intents Patsy s life is HARD It just seems like she cannot catch a break This all changes when Patsy receives the American visa she s been applying for Patsy, like most some Jamaicans think going to America will change their lives for the better so she grabs the opportunity to leave the island Patsy s oldest and dearest friend Cicely left Pennyfield a decade ago and from her letters to Patsy, moving to New York was the best thing that ever happened to her Cicely paints a picture of hope, wealth and overall happier life once Patsy lands in New York What Cicely does not make mention of is any plans for her and Patsy rekindling their love once she arrives Patsy decides to put herself first for once and makes the decision to move to America, leaving behind her mother and her five year old daughter Tru Her mother must now truly depend on the Lord to provide and her daughter Tru will have to live with her father and his family Patsy says goodbye to Jamaica, for the land of opportunity, America Of course, once Patsy arrives in America, she realizes it is nothing as Cicely described in her letters Reality hits hard for Patsy, an undocumented immigrant who finds herself doing things she would dream of doing if she was still in Jamaica I thoroughly enjoyed reading Pasty I feel she is a character I don t always read about and it was refreshing doing so I liked how complex Patsy is as a character, Dennis Benn wrote a believable character and that is what I loved most about the book It is not everyday you read about motherhood like this and I felt it was explored in a truly authentic way The themes explored in this book are not new, but I felt the author did a solid job of exploring each in a way I never thought of On some level I am over the narrative of Jamaicans leaving Jamaica to find a better life in the US I am over how a lot of people think the streets of America are lined with numerous opportunities and all they need to do is get a visa, get there and their lives will be changed for the better I am also over reading about the barrel children who will have to grow up without their parent s On the other hand, this is a reality in Jamaica and the Caribbean, I ve had Aunts and Uncles who left Jamaica seeking a better life elsewhere So on some level, I feel like this is a story that deserves to be told, and Nicole Dennis Benn did this a great way I did enjoy the book but I didn t love it as much as I did her previous novel I think it was a tad bit too long and the ending was a bit too rushed Overall, this is a truly a great addition to Caribbean literature. I am not quite sure how to articulate what I feel after reading Patsy In Dennis Benn s second novel we are once again asked to explore diverse subject matter immigration, LGBTQ , religion, colorism, politics motherhood Although I left motherhood for last this is the part of the book that I struggled with the most When Patsy decided that she is going to chase after the American dream and leave her daughter behind I was judgemental As a mother I was pissed and unsympathetic I could not fathom going to another country without my child for the sake of my own freedom But Patsy does just that She leaves Jamaica for the freedom to be with the woman she loves She wants to be able to love without fear, judgement or reprisals Patsy leaves to be free of her mother s religiosity with her house full of idols to a White Jesus and the smell of rosemary oil anointing the walls Although she loves Tru, Patsy has always known she did not want to be a mother In some respects she sees her departure as a gift When Patsy leaves she knows she is never coming back Patsy made me uncomfortable because it forced me to look at motherhood from a different perspective Although I may never agree with the character Patsy s decisions, by the end of the book I felt I had come to understand her Dennis Benn s ability to draw complex characters and push her readers to rethink their original position is why her stories are so compelling Special thanks to NetGalley, Liveright Publishing and Nichole Dennis Benn for access to this book. My wife has set herself a challenge to read books by black women authors this year and somehow, I find myself reading reviews and gravitating towards the same kind of book Patsy is the story of a young woman with a five year old daughter living in a poor area of Jamaica She is desperate to get to America to find Cicely, her love and best friend from childhood, at the cost of just about everything she has, including her daughter She finally manages to get her visa but what she finds in Brooklyn is not quite what Cicely has portrayed in her letters.This is a beautifully written story which powerfully expresses the life of women who migrate for work or the hope of a better life in another country It s written from both Patsy s and her daughter, Tru s, points of view giving an incredible account of the trials and development both of them have to go through Patsy is a complex character who and I found myself constantly having to pull myself back from judgement, even when I m reading Tru s point of view.So much of it is such a stark reality check on the difference in the lives of women with privilege versus women who have so few choices Women from poor communities have so little say over their lives and their bodies They do what is expected of them in order to survive Their bodies belong to men, sex is expected and consent is not needed Sexual orientation and gender identity is not something they have any power to express Possibly one of the saddest things though, is that for someone like Patsy, her status is pretty much the same in the US as it is in Jamaica.I highly recommend it even though it s quite emotionally draining Book received from Netgalley and Oneworld Publications for an honest review. 4.5 stars With PATSY, Nicole Dennis Benn has with just two novels declared herself as one of our best and most important writers It s not a small feat Dennis Benn writes urgent, beautiful, heartwrenching stories about the women the world ignores Patsy has made a surprisingly good life for herself for a woman in a poor neighborhood in Jamaica Her life has not been easy, her mother is so obsessed with religion that she doesn t contribute to the family at all, and Patsy s daughter was an unplanned pregnancy with a man who is married to another woman It may be as good of a life as Patsy can hope for, but Patsy dreams of she dreams of a life with Cicely, her childhood friend and eventually lover, who now lives in New York City When Patsy gets a long awaited visa, she is ready to leave her life behind entirely for Cicely, including her 6 year old daughter Tru.Patsy s new life isn t as simple as she expected and we follow her through years of life as an undocumented immigrant after years of having an office job Patsy is not grateful for any job she can get, she is ashamed and frustrated, she wants , and she is intensely lonely The book does not take the easy way out, it does not let us follow Patsy and try to forget what she has left behind Instead it follows both Patsy and Tru through time We learn about Patsy s past, all she has gone through, including the many ways her own mother abandoned her and the difficulty she had bonding with her own daughter We see all the way she feels guilt for Tru and how that guilt paralyzes her Simultaneously, we see Tru move in with her father s family, how much she misses her mother, and how she copes as she gradually realizes her mother isn t coming back This is what makes the book so difficult, but it is also what makes it so real We see how trauma runs through Patsy s past, we see what she is trying to save her daughter from, but we also see how Patsy doesn t fully understand her decision or her own guilt We are getting books that reconsider and reexamine motherhood, and PATSY is definitely one of them as well as one of the most unflinching and honest about what happens when you do not want to be a mother I would put it up against THE DAYS OF ABANDONMENT as one of the most difficult but most honest books about the difficulties of motherhood.Patsy and Tru are drawn in such detail, they are so fully formed by the end of the novel that it is hard to believe they are not real Dennis Benn is truly able to give you something that is so firmly rooted in emotion that it manages to feel epic in scale because the feelings it taps into are so real and so intense.I listened to the audiobook as I was in a bit of a print slump, and it was a good choice I like books with accents and dialects on audio quite a lot Here the reader was slower than I usually like, but I didn t mind at all, it felt like she was speaking with such thought and care, and the rhythm and speed fit the story. Ahhh wow Nicole Dennis Benn s characters and stories are like no other This book was stunning I loved her first novel and I think I loved this one even I will never forget the characters of Patsy and her child Tru Dennis Benn examines how the world has set them up to fail poor, queer, immigrant, women, Black, and dark skinned and the impact this has on their personal relationships, and how they continue to seek freedom on their own terms. Do you ever have that feeling when you don t even want to put words on paper because no words could fully encapsulate the brilliance of a book you just read That s how I feel with Patsy I am going to be a mediocre guide trying to give you a semblance of an idea of what this book is about There are so many amazing articles circulating around that you must read so that you can get help in uncovering the layers of this book As always, my best method of trying to review this book is to show what I felt reading it I was awed by this story There are no conventional tropes to be found here, even trying to summarize this book feels like a disservice to this story I will try my best though I had mentioned in an earlier post that I felt as if I was reading Annie John through the mother s perspective and yet, as I continued reading the book became so much than that I recently read an article where Nichole Dennis Benn found herself judging Patsy for the choices that she made I was so happy she said that because I had a hard time not condemning Patsy in the beginning But how can I judge her when I have no idea what I would have done in her situation You see, Patsy is sold on the fantasy of coming to America, of hiding amongst the throng of people that live in New York and finally being able to be herself Dennis Benn does such an amazing job at showing how nothing can be hidden in Jamaica, and Patsy seeks a freedom to be herself and to have choices I didn t judge Patsy for that but it was hard to come to terms that for Patsy to take on this journey, she has to leave her daughter, Tru, behind The thing is that Pasty never wanted to be a mother and once again, that choice was taken away from her How can I judge a person that sought a right to choose who she wanted to be When Patsy comes to this country she can be herself but unfortunately, she is now branded as undocumented and she sees that once again she is limited by the identities given to her by others Meanwhile, in Jamaica, Tru is dealing with a mother who abandoned her, living with her father, and once again dealing with the identities heaped upon her Tru is gender nonconforming but the world around them wants to limit their choices especially after getting their period It s a harrowing journey and I loved following the minds of both Tru and Patsy It is an unforgettable story, filled with themes of immigration, identity especially queer identities, colonialism, racism, and it forces you the reader to look beyond the facts at the reality that forces women like Patsy to make choices that may at first glance seem unbelievable You grapple with the tension of the lack of freedom and are forced to reconcile that life isn t simple and one action can t simply be judged I absolutely loved this book and highly recommend it It was filled with hope and determination I was so happy with the ending and again, I can t say enough to really tell you what it s about All I can say is that it is a must read. Nicole Dennis Benn is an amazing writer This was just too depressing for me It was very real, but it just seemed like everything about both women s experiences was horrible, even within the good parts I kept reading because the writing pulled me in so much The characters were real and I definitely have experienced and seen the patriarchy and misogyny and homophobia of Jamaican culture that is displayed here I liked that none of the characters were perfect or even really good I also liked that there were very specific Black things, like Black people who have been raised by white people and look down upon other Black people as a result, or Black people looking down on each other in general, the microagressions from the white people Patsy deals with, the whole thing with a white man opening a Jamaican restaurant based on one trip he took to the country like, you cannot say this book isn t real But I guess that s what made it hard for me.There s also a LOT of both main characters dealing with depression, self harm, and a suicide attempt, and I think that s what kept me from fully enjoying the book, since those are things that are personally triggering for me Sometimes I can deal with and sometimes I can t I admit I had to skim some of the passages because I just couldn t let myself get into that, even though they were accurate and ugh Good things It s fun to read Dennis Benn s books because I sit next to my mom and ask her about all the patois words I don t know We talk about the food I ve never had before I see aspects of my culture reflected that I ve only seen once or twice before or have heard from my grandmother I loved the queerness, especially since I don t get to see many books about Black women loving each other romantically I loved that both mother and daughter were queer That s the coolest.
- 419 pages
- Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn
- 16 September 2017 Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn