Patsy

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 27 Jun 2019

Member Reviews

I can confidently say that i will read anything this author writes. The characters are always so vivid and authentic, emotions flow from the pages. This was a brilliant book, although I felt the ending was a little rushed.
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Towards the end of Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn, Patsy gives her daughter Tru this advice, “Never let anyone define you. Always know that you matter. Your thoughts, feelings, and your desires matter. Your happiness matters.” I feel like that tells you so much about this touching and heartbreaking exploration of motherhood, sexuality, and how to find the key to the cage one might find oneself in, in life. 
***
Patsy finally gets an American visa to follow her childhood love, Cicely, to Brooklyn after many years. She leaves behind her young daughter Tru with Tru's father (who has been absent) and his wife. Once in America though, her American Dream is not what it seemed and she goes through hell and back to get where she is at the end. While I have read books which were predominantly told through the eyes of the child in this situation, this was the first which focused on the mother's more than the child's experience. Neither of them had an easy time and sometimes hope seems to be all but lost. By the end though we get to celebrate certain wins, big and small. 
***
Nicole Dennis-Benn handles many timely and difficult topics in Patsy, and does so deftly and with consideration: racism, classism, colourism, domestic abuse, child sexual abuse, self harming, suicide, and living queer in a less than understanding environment (in Jamaica and even the US to an extent). 
***
I loved Patsy, her story, Tru, and all the other supporting characters that made this such an unforgettable read.
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My wife has set herself a challenge to read books by black women authors this year and somehow, I find myself reading reviews and gravitating towards the same kind of book. Patsy is the story of a young woman with a five-year-old daughter living in a poor area of Jamaica. She is desperate to get to America to find Cicely, her love and best friend from childhood, at the cost of just about everything she has, including her daughter. She finally manages to get her visa but what she finds in Brooklyn is not quite what Cicely has portrayed in her letters.

This is a beautifully written story which powerfully expresses the life of women who migrate for work or the hope of a better life in another country. It’s written from both Patsy’s and her daughter, Tru’s, points of view giving an incredible account of the trials and development both of them have to go through. Patsy is a complex character who and I found myself constantly having to pull myself back from judgement, even when I’m reading Tru’s point of view.

So much of it is such a stark reality check on the difference in the lives of women with privilege versus women who have so few choices. Women from poor communities have so little say over their lives and their bodies. They do what is expected of them in order to survive. Their bodies belong to men, sex is expected and consent is not needed. Sexual orientation and gender identity is not something they have any power to express. Possibly one of the saddest things though, is that for someone like Patsy, her status is pretty much the same in the US as it is in Jamaica.

I highly recommend it even though it’s quite emotionally draining.

Book received from Netgalley and Oneworld Publications for an honest review.
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Patricia Reynolds, called Patsy, has waited for years to fulfil her dream: going to the USA and leaving Jamaica behind. Even though she only got a visitor’s visa, she plans to never come back and instead make a career in the north just like her best friend Cicely. She abandons her daughter Tru who is too young to understand what happens and now has to cope with living with a new family while her mother seemingly enjoys her life in the Big Apple. However, it does not take too long for Patsy to understand that nobody waited for illegal immigrants and that she will have to take cleaning and nursing jobs to survive. The years pass and while Patsy slowly has to accept that her dream of a better life will never come true, her daughter struggles to find her place in a world that she simply does not fit in. She wants to play football like the boys and tries to ignore all signs that make her a girl.

Nicole Dennis-Benn’s novel offers a broad variety of subjects ranging from the situation of undocumented immigrants and their lives in the shadows, dreams her characters have that simply do not come true, the concepts of being a man or a woman and behaving according to others’ expectations, what it means to be a mother and to stick to your ideas and goals in life nevertheless, love and abuse, unhealthy relationships and dishonest friendships. 

The author wonderfully parallels the developments of mother and daughter under harsh circumstances in the two different countries. Albeit the fact that there is an age gap of 21 years, a lot of progress is analogous like adapting to a new situation, high hopes that increasingly have to be adjusted to reality and finally, finding love where they never would have expected it. Especially Patsy’s American Dream gone bad is very powerfully narrated, most of all the moments when darkness surrounds her are most compelling. While I found most of the plot very interesting and brilliantly narrated, the novel was a bit too long and thus lengthy at times for my liking.
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Half the books I read these days seem to be “it’s not you it’s me” books, by which I mean, I know they’re good books, well-written with great characters. But they’re not books I enjoy. Patsy just so happened to be one of those.

This book, unsurprisingly, is about a main character called Patsy, who emigrates from Jamaica to the USA, leaving behind her daughter, Tru, with Tru’s father, who is now married to another woman and has three sons. Patsy is hoping to meet her best friend Cicely in America, a woman she loved before Cicely disappeared abruptly.

Not a whole lot in terms of action happens in this book. It’s a very character-driven novel, with 400 pages of character development going on, to be honest. And me, with my terrible patience and lack of concentration, I was just not a good fit for it. The writing was gorgeous and I loved the characters easily, but I just don’t do well with this kind of fiction.

But even still it grew on me as a book. Especially near the end, where both Patsy and Tru met someone, and there was that also developing. That’s when I started liking the book more, and skimming it less. And, on the whole, I loved the development of Tru’s relationship with her father. So there were aspects I liked. It’s just, some of it felt a little like it came too late for me. After I’d got through 300 pages of none of that, and then it comes. I’ve comfortably already formed an opinion of a book by then, so, although I liked those parts, they didn’t really make up for everything before.

But if that kind of thing is for you, a deeply character-driven novel that centres around some wonderful relationships? You’ll probably enjoy this a lot more.
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Thanks to NetGalley and The Publisher for this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

This is the story of Patsy and what she will do for love. It's the story of an illegal immigrant in America. It's a story about survival. it's a story about parent-child relationships. It's about love, lost and found. its about self acceptance. it's not a nice story, It doesn't have a happy every after. But there was so much beauty in the writing. I couldn't put it down and certainly wasn't disappointed.

Will be highly recommending this one.
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Heart-wrenching and evocative, this novel provides a dual-narrative approach of a mother and daughter, separated after Patsy, the mother, leaves their home in Jamaica for a better life. Painful but ultimately hopeful, this story is empathetic and wonderfully told.
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From the very start of this book you just get the feeling that it is going to be an excellent read.
It is based around Patsy who is from Jamaica and is trying to make a life for herself in America- yet it does not go quite as well as expected.
It deals with different emotions, sexuality and the feeling of belonging and acceptance.
Patsy is hoping to re-connect with friend and ex lover Cicely. However as the years have gone by life has also  changed for Cicely. 
Highly recommended read.
Great writing.
Thank you to both NetGalley and Oneworld Publication for my eARC of this book in exchange for my honest unbiased review
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Patsy is a novel about a Jamaican woman who leaves everything behind to go to America but it isn't what she expected.
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Patsy is richly detailed and competently written, but it never quite took off for me and in places felt slightly workmanlike. That said, I think there should be approx 1000 more novels than there are about Jamaican lesbians so I'm very glad it exists.
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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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