Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn

Patsy is a powerful novel about a Jamaican woman who leaves everything behind to go to America, at times heartbreaking and happy, and a moving look at identity and belonging. Patsy manages to get a visa to America, where she hopes to follow her childhood best friend and secret love Cicely who she hasn’t seen in years. To do so, she has to leave behind her young daughter Tru, who she cannot connect with like she feels she should. But America isn’t what she expected and Cicely’s life is different now. As Patsy grapples with years as an undocumented immigrant, trying to fight her own feelings and loneliness, Tru lives with her father’s family in Jamaica and is dealing with her own identity and with the abandonment by her mother.

This is an immersive and emotional novel that delves deep into Patsy’s mindsets and life, but also manages to weave in Tru’s story and the heartbreaking ways in which they are paralleled or separated. Patsy’s journey is often bittersweet, with her attempts to find the life she wants to lead often not working out as expected, and immigration being far from her dreams, but at the same time the novel is hopeful and asserts the importance of living your own life and being who you want to be. It provides an insight into race in America, especially as an undocumented immigrant, and into life and class in Jamaica, as well as the gender roles that can be oppressive and not fitting the individual. The combination of Patsy and Tru’s stories makes it particularly powerful, bringing a lot of the emotional moments as the novel grapples with ideas of parenting and what is actually best for the people involved, both mother and child.

Written in a way that feels immediate and vivid, Patsy is a novel that draws you in and gives a voice to questions of immigration, sexuality, and gender. It feels like a novel that will linger with you long after the last page, and hopefully will provide some of the representation that Patsy feels is so missing when she goes to America, unable to see people like her in certain places, from both Patsy and Tru’s depictions.

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