Title/Author: Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn
Publisher: Liveright Pub
In a nutshell (Publisher):
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 more than a decade as mother and daughter ultimately find a way back to one another.
As with her masterful debut, Here Comes the Sun, Nicole Dennis-Benn once again charts the geography of a hidden world―that of a paradise lost, swirling with the echoes of lilting patois, in which one woman fights to discover her sense of self in a world that tries to define her. Passionate, moving, and fiercely urgent, Patsy is a prismatic depiction of immigration and womanhood, and the lasting threads of love stretching across years and oceans.
Verdict: An absorbing novel of love, motherhood and acceptance.
Patsy decided motherhood wasn’t for her. She had bigger dreams to pursue. She wanted live her life. So she left Jamaica and moved to NYC where the love of her life was. Tru, her daughter, was devastated when Patsy told her that she won’t be leaving with her to NY. But Patsy promised Tru that she will build their dream home when she returns, even when Patsy knew returning was far from true. Not knowing any better, Tru waited. And waited. And waited. Year after year, she held on to the hope of hearing from her mother, only to be disappointed.
Will Patsy ever find the courage to contact her daughter? Will Tru ever forgive Patsy for leaving her? Was Patsy being selfish for doing so or did she save Tru from the disappointment of having a mother who wasn’t ready to be one?
This novel is about love, motherhood, immigration, sexuality, and most of all, to me, about making choices.
I didn’t like Patsy. No, not the book. I meant Patsy, the MC of the book. As a mother, I couldn’t fathom how could she, as a mother, be so irresponsible and selfish, leave her daughter behind to pursue her dreams and then remain vacant from her life? I mean, seriously? WOW.
So how did I manage to finish a book with an MC whom I couldn’t bring myself to like? Tru. My heart went out to her, and I wanted to see her happy. I was captivated by her story, her journey to self-discovery and her relationship with her dad which was so real and touching; also I wanted to see how Patsy was going to come to terms with herself for leaving Tru behind, and how she was going to find her way around NY, and surviving it.
I was glad towards the end, I was able to empathize with Patsy. To err is human, who are we to cast the first stone; and who am I to judge, I’m not in her shoes.
The book also had a very strong sense of place. The author did a great job contrasting the colorful, soulful Jamaica with the gritty, gliterry New York, a melting pot of dream chasers; one always looking greener from the other side. But beneath all that, circumstances remained the same – people struggling to survive, the rich getting richer the poor getting poorer, corruption and bullying, classism and racism.
The patois did slow me down a little though, because I wasn’t familiar with it, but that didn’t deter me from enjoying the story.
If you like novels that have strong, authentic characters and beautiful endings, this book checks all the boxes. I’m happy that Tru’s happy!
Have you read this book? What did you think? If you haven’t, do you intend to read it? Please share with me your thoughts!