Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn
Rating: 4 stars
Despite the name and gorgeous cover, this is not a sunny read at all. Despite taking place in and near a luxury resort that tourists flock to for a “foreign” vacation, this novel deals with the lives of those that live on the outskirts of the tourism industry, working in the hotels, selling trinkets to clueless travelers, or selling themselves for a chance to escape from poverty.
The main character Margot was someone I admired at the beginning. Despite the horrible things that have happened to her and her side job as a prostitute for the men at the hotel where she works, she was surviving. She knew what she wanted and went for it, circumstances be damned. Her main goal was always to protect her sister from the horrors she faced at an early age, and her money and the sexual favors all go to paying for sister’s private education and exams. She wants her sister to have a chance to succeed and have a life she otherwise could only dream of.
Margot also has to come to terms with her own sexuality when she finds herself falling in love with Verdene, a known lesbian who returned to their village after years away in London. In their area it is still not acceptable to be gay, and Verdene frequently faces taunts, ostracism, and even dead animals left in her yard, their blood used to write hateful messages on her walls. While she is not always a great girlfriend to Verdene, you can see Margot’s struggles as she learns to accept something she was told all her life was a an abomination.
Margot’s sister Thandi is a normal sixteen year old girl dealing with the typical teenage issues of first loves and figuring out who she wants to be. Unlike other girls, she also has so much pressure on her to succeed for her family. While it’s easy to judge her for almost throwing her hard-fought opportunities away, we are not in her position where her life is planned out to maximize her chances . She knows she will always be in her family’s debt. She has to be acutely aware of what happens if she messes up, and maybe this rebelliousness is from a fear of screwing up. Pre-empting the failure she is afraid of.
While I admired Margot so much in the beginning, her story took a Shakespearean turn that saw her turn into someone she wouldn’t recognize. While she did everything in her power to make sure Thandi would never have to sell herself, she found other girls to sell to ensure her future at the hotel and earn more money to save for Thandi. While her position was incredibly difficult, either take the role of a glorified pimp or risk her only source of employment, it’s heartbreaking to see her help other girls destroy their lives they way her’s was destroyed.
This was an amazing and heartbreakingly tragic read, and I recommend it for anyone looking to read about women surviving the best they can. Sometimes survival is all you have, and it has to be enough.