Armchair Book Club: Here Comes the Sun

Heather Allen explores the not-so-sunny side of Jamaica in the Nicole Dennis-Benn novel Here Comes the Sun.

Even in this heat, I’m already thinking ahead to winter vacation spots. After reading Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn, Jamaica won’t be on the list. Dennis-Benn, a debut novelist from Kingston, Jamaica, takes everything that a tourist would see and do in Jamaica, and offers it again from a local’s point of view.

Reading this novel is like turning over a laminated restaurant place mat. The flip side of that sunny tourist photo is a different and darker rendition of the same world. In Here Comes the Sun, the flip side certainly isn’t sunny smiles, swaying palms and beachside drinks.

Margot, who works the front desk at a five-star beachside resort, is all smiles to the guests. But having been overlooked for advancement, and needing to bring in extra cash to her impoverished household, Margot prostitutes herself to willing hotel guests. She’s determined to scrape together enough money so that her younger sister, Thandi, can escape this same fate.

Margot’s mother, Delores, bears long hours and stifling heat selling trinkets to cruise ship passengers. She is sweet and simpering when trying to shill her handmade goods, but at home she is a ruthless woman — one who sold her own daughter for sex with a tourist when she was barely a teenager.

From start to finish, Here Comes the Sun paints a grim picture of life for Jamaica’s working poor. In this multi-layered, moving tale, family life in this seaside shanty town goes from bad to worse. With time and circumstance, Margot becomes just as ruthless as her mother — blackmailing friends, taking on more daring propositions, and starting her own prostitution ring.

Margot has a secret she can’t reveal — she knows that being different here means getting beaten and having dead dogs thrown on your doorstep. Margot’s situation only gets worse when it turns out that she is involved with a new resort hotel that is threatening to bulldoze their seaside town. Straight back to the time of colonialism, these characters have suffered, and taken out their suffering on those around them, and on themselves.

Even Thandi, Margot’s younger sister who has an opportunity to escape poverty with her intellect, can’t break free,

She doesn’t think about a different future: what matters to her is that she is dark, and therefore, ugly. She slathers herself in toxic bleaching cream, and despite the stifling heat wraps herself daily in cling wrap plastic.

Here Come the Sun certainly takes the romance out of the crystal waters and white sand portrayed in newspaper ads. Although Dennis-Benn’s version of life on the island is unrelenting, and the possibility of a happy ending for anyone but a foreigner seems impossible, this is a book well worth the trip.

 


 

Just Posted

Geordie Fife exits the dunk tank during 2017’s Discovery House Father’s Day festivities at Skaha Lake Park. The fundraiser helps raise awareness of the work done at the house and break down the stigma associated with addiction. (Western News File)
Discovery House Father’s Day fundraiser goes digital

The addiction recovery program will be rolling out videos ahead of the fundraiser

The proposed design of the five-storey building on Front Street. (City of Penticton)
Five-storey building proposed for Penticton’s Front Street

It will be the second time the proposal will head to council

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from St. Eugene’s residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

RCMP thanked the public for assistance in finding Benjamin Archie, last seen in Princeton. (RCMP)
Missing Chilliwack man found safe and sound

The 80-year-old had walked away from his home in Chilliwack

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Naramata community in shock as condolences pour in for homicide victim Kathy Richardson

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

(Heather Lueck image)
Crash north of Enderby knocks out power, slows Highway 97A traffic

A witness captured footage of a medical helicopter landing at the scene

The RCMP presence in Central Okanagan public schools is being reviewed by the board of education. (File photo)
RCMP presence welcomed in Central Okanagan public schools

Staff survey feedback overwhelmingly positive from students, staff and parents

Most Read