Title: Here Comes the Sun
Author: Nicole Dennis-Benn
Read Harder Challenge: Yes – A book where all point-of-view characters are people of color, a debut novel
Star Review: ♥ ♥♥ ♥ /5
Why: Nicole Dennis-Benn’s book is much talked about, and extremely well-received, especially for a debut! I knew I had to read it this year or I would lose the opportunity to read this book within the lovely cloud of excitement it’s generated. I’m glad I did!
The main characters of this literary fiction novel are struggling – with the choices they make, the reasons they make them, and the impact that they have on themselves and others. Meanwhile, Jamaica is its own character (figuratively speaking – this is not magical realism!), and is dealing with the same crises as well. It’s an extremely poignant read as it follows Delores, her two daughters Thandi and Margot, and the connections they have made to an interconnected, messy, and very real conclusion.
I started this book finding it hard to wrap myself around it. I recently read a quote (don’t ask me where) about how literary fiction is supposed to increase readers’ empathy because it drops you into someone else’s life, whose experience can differ from your own. I felt this book doing that, but I also found myself combating my poor habit of impatience and speed-reading. The beginning of this one, like many literary fiction novels, sacrifices plot for character development and I was definitely wavering somewhere in the beginning third on this one. As this book explored its themes of identity, race, self-determination, and love, I felt myself more drawn in.
One thing this book did that I generally enjoy is having all the disparate plots come together for the conclusion of the novel. All characters are sympathetic in their own way, but none are loveable. To see the way they impact one another is the reason we get to know them, rather than to encourage or hope for their growth as people. As expected from someone who teaches writing and has participated in several writing workshops, sentences are beautiful but a bit self-aware.
Overall for me, this book was impactful, but not quite as deft as Ngozie or Zadie Smith in its exploration of similar themes. That knocked off a star for me, though it’s nothing to be ashamed of since I consider them masters in that regard. I will certainly be recommending this one to friends.