Patsy: Book summary and reviews of Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn

Patsy

A Novel

by Nicole Dennis-Benn

Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn X
Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn
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  • Published in USA  Jun 2019
    432 pages
    Genre: Novels

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About this book

Book Summary

From nationally celebrated novelist Nicole Dennis-Benn, a brave, stirring portrait of a Jamaican woman who leaves her daughter behind for a new life in America.

When Patsy gets her long-coveted visa to America, it's the culmination of years of yearning to be reunited with Cicely, her oldest friend and secret love, who left home years before for the "land of opportunity." Patsy's plans do not include her religious mother or even her young daughter, Tru, both of whom she leaves behind in a bittersweet trail of sadness and relief.

But Brooklyn is not at all what Cicely described in her letters, and to survive as an undocumented immigrant, Patsy is forced to work as a bathroom attendant, and ironically, as a nanny. Meanwhile, back in Jamaica, Tru struggles with her own questions of identity and sexuality, grappling every day with what it means to be abandoned by a mother who has no intention of returning. Passionate, moving, and fiercely urgent, Patsy is a haunting depiction of immigration and womanhood, and the silent threads of love stretching across years and oceans.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Dennis-Benn's second novel (after Here Comes the Sun) is simultaneously about the immigrant experience, the complications of family ties, and sexual awakening ... This work shines as an example of how cultural specificity can highlight universal themes." - Library Journal

"Although she's lovingly drawn by Dennis-Benn, Patsy has done the single most-damning thing a mother can do in our society: She has abandoned her child. It's a marker of Dennis-Benn's masterful prowess at characterization and her elegant, nuanced writing that the people here―even when they're flawed or unlikable―inspire sympathy and respect. Dennis-Benn has written a profound book about sexuality, gender, race, and immigration that speaks to the contemporary moment through the figure of a woman alive with passion and regret." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Nicole Dennis-Benn is an exquisite writer who paints scenes with words so vivid you might as well be walking through it as a character, not a reader. In Patsy, she addresses motherhood, sexuality, racism, and colorism; turning her prodigious talents to the timely story of an undocumented immigrant straddling two worlds while learning that love isn't a choice, but the beat in one's blood." - Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of A Spark of Light and Small Great Things

"A stunningly powerful inter-generational novel about the price―the ransom really― women must pay to choose themselves, their lives, their value, their humanity. Frank, funny, salty, heartbreaking, full of love, Dennis-Benn is a map-maker to those places in the heart held so closely, the holder may not know even they're there." - Alexander Chee, author of How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

"Beautiful, shattering, and deeply affecting. Patsy's story ultimately makes for a novel that is destined to endure." - Chigozie Obioma, author of The Fishermen

"A novel that splits at the seams with yearning, elegantly written and deeply felt. Dennis-Benn leads the reader through Patsy's life with empathy and grace." - Esme Weijun Wang, author of The Collected Schizophrenias

"An aching meditation on motherhood, sacrifice, and what it means to look truth in the face in order to fully become oneself. A beautiful book, as heartbreaking as it is restorative." - Cristina Henriquez, author of The Book of Unknown Americans

The information about Patsy shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Reader Reviews

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Beverly J. (Hoover, AL)

A Gem of a Story
This sweeping tale is equal parts heart-wrenching, impactful and hopeful and highlights Dennis-Benn strong storytelling skills.

The unflinching portraits of the complex characters each of whom is looking to be comfortable within their skin is told with compassion and psychological acumen and provides a new view into the immigrant tale of those who migrated and those who are left behind at "home".

As the story expertly touches on self-discovery and identity in a meaningful way, the characters show us all of the intricacies of dreams, betrayals, colorism, motherhood, and sexuality especially when it crosses societal and cultural expectations.

While reading about Patsy and her ordeals was thought provoking, I was enthralled by Tru, Patsy's daughter, and her struggles as a young girl to understand her place in family and friends lives and her place in her community. As Patsy and Tru had similar dilemmas, Dennis-Benn seamlessly shows the changing generational/cultural attitudes making for a stunningly emotive effect.

Be prepared to be amazed by this bold, powerful and reflective read.

Xan

Patsy
This book was a great read from beginning to end! The author did a great job of introducing tough topics to include racism, sexism, classism, and even mental abuse. It was a great idea to keep us informed of how Patsy's decision to leave her daughter, Tru, behind as she selfishly goes to America in search of what she thought would be a better life. Ultimately, it appears that Patsy was more in search of her own identify and what could be considered a fantasy, in my opinion. The lesson could be that location doesn't necessarily guarantee happiness. It was a brilliant idea for the author to continuously take us back to Tru's story to update us on how the loss of a mother can impact a child. There were also other lessons of mental abuse experienced by Marva (a victim and culprit) and even Tru's stepbrother. Even though they weren't the main characters in the story, each character involved in the book had his or her own story. It was also an eye opener to discover so many forms of discrimination. Being from America sometimes hinders our judgement about life from the viewpoint of others. I hated for the story to end. Could there possibly be a sequel? I would definitely buy it!

Gwen C. (Clearfield, PA)

Patsy
I knew nothing about this book other than it had a bright cover when I packed it and headed out on a trip. From the beginning I was drawn in. The Jamaican dialect, daughter Tru, balancing wants and needs, and Patsy's plight(s). I was unsure how my companions would feel about immigrants and lesbians but at one point I HAD to share the story, and one of the best discussions ever evolved. One friend shared that her daughter was a lesbian and had kept it secret from us. Another rethought her views on immigration policies. And what it means to be a mother was, of course, the hot topic. This book should fare well in book clubs. Patsy and Tru make lasting impressions.

Lorri S. (Pompton Lakes, NJ)

Honest and heartbreakingly true
This is a book about searching for and being true to your authentic self, even in the face of deprivation, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, even in the absence of privilege. It is also a book about how motherhood--both as a mother and the mothered--can and does change everything. Dennis-Benn's Patsy is honest and the story feels heartbreakingly true. It is a must read for anyone who wants to better understand the life of an immigrant, the life of a complex woman, the life of someone trying to forge a life in a society that does not immediately see the value in all that she has to offer.

Recommended for readers who enjoyed Behold the Dreamers by Mbue or any of Chimamanda Adichie's books.

Paula K. (Champaign, IL)

Heart Wrenching and Heart Warming
Nicole Dennis-Ben is an exquisite writer; in some ways is almost too good. She tells the heart-wrenching story of abandonment - both physical and emotional - of both Patsy and her daughter. Her characters are even more carefully layered than her story, making it both easy for readers to understand their actions and motivations and difficult for readers to separate themselves from the hard decisions each must make. We all know that life is a struggle, whether as a resident of an impoverished island or as an undocumented immigrant in the America of one's dreams. Patsy is hard to read at times and yet one doesn't want it to end. Dennis-Benn has prodigious talent that she puts to excellent use in this novel. I look forward to her next one.

Deb H.

Delightful Read
I am delighted to post this review of Patsy. This compelling read offers an insightful and heartfelt story of the internal tug of war experienced by a young Jamaican mother. Patsy struggles to achieve a sense of self as she immigrates to a new country. Alternating chapters follow the coming of age of Patsy's daughter Tru, whom she left behind in Jamaica.

I loved so many characters in this story and appreciated the gut wrenching honesty that slowly unravelled as the novel progressed. God speed to you Patsy, Tru, Roy, Claudette, and Sore-Foot Marlon. Give this a read if you would like to reimagine the meaning of the word "home".

...15 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Nicole Dennis-Benn

Nicole Dennis-Benn is a Lambda Literary Award winner and New York Foundation for the Arts Artist Fellowship recipient. She's also a finalist for the 2016 John Leonard Prize National Book Critics Circle Award, the 2016 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize, and the 2017 Young Lions Fiction Award for her debut novel, Here Comes the Sun-- a New York Times Notable Book of the year, an NPR, Amazon, Barnes & Noble Best Book of 2016. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Elle, Electric Literature, Ebony, and the Feminist Wire. She was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, and lives with her wife in Brooklyn, New York. Her website is nicoledennisbenn.com.

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