📖: Nicole Dennis-Benn’s Here Comes the Sun (2016)
🍸: here comes the sun
Why this book?
Here Comes the Sun is a novel about working class women living near Montego Bay, Jamaica, a neighborhood on the brink of being dismantled by the rise of new luxury resorts — on the “other side of paradise,” according to the author. As white developers swoop in to evict the local people, the disparities continue to widen between the wealthy and working classes.
The novel centers on four women who Dennis-Benn depicts in a lovely and nuanced way: Margot (who engages in sex work at the hotel where she works to earn extra money for her family), Thandi (Margot’s younger sister who is expected to attend medical school), Delores (their mother, who sells souvenirs by the dock), and Verdene (Margot’s partner and outcast of the town). All hold dark secrets that lead them to betray each other in some way. Throughout the story, Dennis-Benn unravels these secrets at a brilliant pace, making the novel a quick page-turner, all the while continuously complicating the readers’ impression of these characters throughout the plot.
While the novel deals with difficult issues like colorism, poverty, economic exploitation, homophobia, violence, and sexual abuse, there are beautifully quiet moments of love and recognition between some of the characters, which the author depicts with great tenderness and care. In spite of these moments of possible joy, the novel’s somber closing left me wondering if these characters will someday be able to find themselves in the light and warmth of the sun.
Why this drink?
I found a beer-based cocktail recipe that is also called “Here Comes the Sun,” from DC-based restaurant & bar Roofers Union. It’s a bright, light, and crisp drink that accompanied me through this heavy, but beautifully written story 😭. I swapped out the rye for a bourbon and replaced the wheat beer with a blood orange shandy. Recipe credits to Travis Mitchell via liquor.com.
here comes the sun
1.5 oz whiskey
3/4 oz ginger syrup*
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 oz summer shandy
*for garnish: lemon wheel
- combine all ingredients, except for the beer, in a shaker with ice and shake well
- serve in a chilled glass
- top with beer – add more than 1 oz if desired
- garnish with a lemon wheel
*how to make ginger syrup: Pour sugar and water into a pan (using a 1:1 sugar-to-water ratio) and heat the mixture on the stove until it starts to bubble. Once tiny bubbles start to appear, immediately take the boiling syrup off the stove and pour it into the into a glass jar with freshly grated ginger. Cover the jar with airtight lid until cool. Strain out the ginger after liquid cools.
Whiskey: the original recipe calls for rye whiskey, but I used a bourbon. Tasted great! Use whatever whiskey you like 🙂
Beer: the original recipe calls for a wheat beer, but I used a blood orange summer shandy. If you don’t have exactly these kinds of beer available, choose something light, crisp, and fruity. Yum!
No fresh ginger? You can try using ground ginger instead.
Another round, please! 🥂
You might also like:
Alexia Arthurs’s How to Love a Jamaican (2018)
Finished the book? What did you think about it? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
And check out these reviews to learn more about the book:
- Forbidden Love, and a View of Jamaica Beyond the Beaches, by John Williams, The New York Times, May 26, 2016
- Review: In ‘Here Comes the Sun,’ a Hustle to Thrive in Jamaica, by Jessica Senior, The New York Times, June 29, 2016
- ‘Here Comes The Sun’ Shows A Complex, Heartbreakingly Real Jamaica, by Michael Schaub, NPR, July 6, 2016
- Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn review – the sinister side of Jamaica’s tourist trade, by Reni Eddo-Lodge, The Guardian, March 22, 2017