So much can be said about Here Comes the Sun, a story that weaves beautifully written prose through the ugliness of colorism, religion, racism, homophobia, servitude, and neocolonialism— along with other social inequities that plague the Diaspora, particularly in early 1990’s small-town Jamaica.
The novel opens with 30-year-old Margot, a prostitute, employee, daughter, sister, mistress, and lover, though she compartmentalizes her identities in a web of secrets, lies, and deception. Margot will do whatever is necessary to ensure her 15-year-old sister, Thandi, is provided with a top-notch education, which, for Margot, is the only way Thandi can escape the horrors that accompany being raised in their impoverished community. Thandi, however, is crushed by the weight of her sister and mother’s expectations. Margot and Delores see Thandi as their future cash cow and the panacea to their family’s struggles. Both are so hell bent on what lies ahead they miss the self-hate and unhappiness that Thandi battles every day.
They overlook Thandi’s reality for many reasons, including their addiction to money (which provides “quick fixes” but no long-lasting, positive effects). Delores expends much of her efforts on maintaining a shield and barely making ends meet. In doing so, she trades her love for harsh words, emotional abuse, and narrow-mindedness. Meanwhile, Margot meanders through different worlds and beds. Margot believes she is sacrificing her soul for a larger payoff, and she is indifferent about the trail of damage she leaves in the wake of her pursuits. Margot’s lover, Verdene, is only one among their village who’s burned by Margot’s selfishness and hypocrisy. Verdene loves Margot, but can’t move beyond her loss, guilt, and loneliness to protect her own interest and heart. Ultimately, Margot achieves what she’s been striving for. She reaps the spoils of her labor, although it comes at a hefty price.
These four characters exhibit a range of strength. But their tenacity is overshadowed by their individual demons. Each woman is trapped by other people’s expectations and deeply scarred by emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. For some, the sexual violence may be difficult to read; more specifically, the generational rape and the sex between males and underage females. Women’s bodies and worth are reduced to men’s pleasure and fleeting monetary gains. Sadly, Black women’s bodies have been and continue to be used like rags, and this is reflected in the story. Because of the heaviness of the sexual abuse and prostitution— in addition to the intertwining familial dysfunction and sociopolitical issues— you may find yourself asking, “Where’s the silver lining?”
I’m not suggesting this story shouldn’t be slathered in the grittiness that Jamaican or any cluster of Black girls and women face. After all, intergenerational and intra-communal exploitation is real. However, at many points during the read, I wanted breathing space, for the overlapping subplots to be streamlined… simplified… for the focus to remain on the main characters, their central conflicts and motivations, and, maybe, the finality of their journeys. I felt distracted by the pockets of commotion from other characters, which detracted from what I wanted most— for at least one of the four women to find peace in the storm of survival and victimization.
It would be remiss of me to not acknowledge that Here Comes the Sun is a meaningful addition to the shelf of stories that feature a same-sex relationship among Black women—in this case, Jamaican women. On the same note, I can’t neglect that the story is replete with sadness and pain. Regardless of your reading taste or tolerance, the book is worth the sitting.
Reviewed by: Lauren Cherelle
Lauren Cherelle uses her time and talents to traverse imaginary and professional worlds. She recently penned her sophomore novel, The Dawn of Nia (Resolute Publishing, 2016). Outside of reading and writing, she enjoys new adventures with her partner of thirteen years. You can find Lauren online at Twitter, www.lcherelle.com, and Goodreads.