The Next Chapter·Like This? Love That

If you liked Nicole Dennis-Benn's Patsy, you'll enjoy Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid-Benta

The Next Chapter columnist Donna Bailey Nurse finds a Canadian counterpart to the international novel.
Donna Bailey Nurse is a book critic and columnist. (Mallory Drumm)

Patsy by Jamaican-born author Nicole Dennis-Benn is a novel about a Jamaican woman who leaves her family behind to live in New York City. The bestselling book is a moving tale about motherhood, immigration and the sacrifices made to improve their station in life.

The Next Chapter columnist Donna Bailey Nurse has read Patsy and says if you enjoyed that novel you should check out the Canadian novel Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid-Benta.

Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn

Nicole Dennis-Benn is a Jamaican-born novelist based in New York City. (Liveright, Jason Berger)

"This book made a big splash last summer. It was published to enthusiastic reviews and was on many 'best-of' lists last year. It's the story of a 28-year-old Jamaican woman who gets a long awaited visa to America.

"She leaves her home and her daughter behind with the hope of finding love and success in Brooklyn. But the reality falls short of this promise and the novel examines what it's like to be far from home.

She's a complex character but much like many people in the real world, Patsy's just looking for a chance at a good life.- Donna Bailey Nurse

"Patsy just wants a life and a future because she can see no future around her. Her best friend and her lover Cicely has left to live in the United States and so it's her dream to join her. 

"When she does go there, she finds that America is not how she thought it was.

"What stands out to me about this story is just how desperate she is. She's a complex character but much like many people in the real world, Patsy's just looking for a chance at a good life."

Frying Plantain by Zalika Reid-Benta

Frying Plantain is a short story collection by Zalika Reid-Benta. (House of Anansi Press)

"This is a linked collection of stories. It was longlisted for the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize. It's the story of a young second generation Jamaican-Canadian named Kara Davis. We follow her through about 10 years of her life.

"She's nine years old when we meet her. The stories are mostly set in what's known as the Little Jamaica neighbourhood in Toronto.

It's a very polished debut and a tremendous performance for a first-time author.- Donna Bailey Nurse

"The family is always financially strapped. The single mother is extremely overbearing with this child, mostly because she really wants this child not to wind up in the same situation as she was, which is pregnant at 17 years old.

"She wants Kara to have much more than that. The only way Kara can really connect with her family roots is through her favourite food which is fried plantain, a dish that her grandmother makes for her.

"It's a very polished debut and a tremendous performance for a first time author. She has a fresh, distinct and understated voice. Her style she reminds me a lot of Margaret Laurence."

Frying Plantain author Zalika Reid-Benta discusses her collection of short stories. 8:58

Donna Bailey Nurse's comments have been edited for length and clarity. 


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