Life is a bitch. Plain and simple. And sometimes people with good intentions reap dangerous and highly unfair results.
Sandra is a woman who’s had it hard all her life while living in Trinidad – one of the small Caribbean islands. She has two children whom she’d love to give everything she’s never had to. A mother who had high expectations for her. And a string of past jobs that have only been able to keep her bank account at a constant two digits. With all the pressure surrounding her, Sandra becomes a desperate woman. And like all desparate people, she looks for an easy escape. Unfortunately, Sandra wasn’t fast to heed the Jamaican idiom that all Caribbean people are familiar with that goes “long cut draw sweat, short cut draw blood”. It basically means that often nothing good ever comes from choosing the easy way out.
So Sandra decides that she can’t continue to live the life she’s been living and believes that if she were to go to America, she could make a couple bucks that were sure to be able to put her daughter, Andrea, through high school and university and at least keep her son, Antonio, out of trouble. But, as fate would have it, Sandra’s plan goes south. Her American dream has turned into an American nightmare. She loses her family in a way no mother or woman should ever have to and learns what it truly means to be realistic and family-oriented – even if it’s already too late.
This is the second book that I’ve read from Beverley-Ann Scott and I was, honsetly, depressed by it. Even though her debut novel The Stolen Cascadura was just as depressing, there were other aspects mixed into that storyline that made it multidimensional. Readers are introduced to this woman who, struggling to make a living in a small island, decides to improve her family’s situation by travelling to America to make a comfortable income but ends up gaining all the money she could want but loses her loved ones in the process.
I figured that she would struggle through hell and high water while realizing that America isn’t all she thought it’d be and get deported to Trinidad after she’d earned a decent amount of cash. Then, when she returned to Trinidad and saw the damage her absence had done to her family, she’d try to pick up the pieces just in time to aid her daughter in choosing the right path but lose her son to gang warfare. But it never had that kind of outcome at all.
Sandra suffered through ten years hard labour in Brooklyn, taking care of fussy elderly people who offered a more than generous salary before getting a chance to return to Trinidad. However, her absence had already harshly affected her family. Her mother passed from a heart attack. Her daughter, Andrea, fell into the traps older men set for naïve young girls and at fourteen became pregnant. Five more years passed and she got pregnant again for another older man who played his cards right. Her son, Antonio, did join a gang but managed to get out after a near death experience. He went to live with his unlce in the country and soon enough had a little family of his own. However, by the time Sandra re-entered their lives, the damage had already been done. Her children refused the advice she offered and one even ended up in the same predicament as her.
Beverley-Ann Scott carefully develops each character that allows readers to not only come to understand and befriend each character but also empathize with them. Sandra, who started out as a naïve tourist in the “land of promise” came into her own by learning the different ropes of life that her mother forgot to teach her. Sandra’s son, Antonio, is so keen on becoming a man that he falls into the hands of a psychotic gang leader. He feels that because he weilds a gun, he’s a man. However, as his life gets continuosly placed in danger by the same person he believed had his back, he figured out that becoming a man goes so much farther than being able to take another man’s life. Eventually, he finds his way and becomes a man that his wife and children need. While Andrea, Sandra’s daughter, sadly never finds her full potential but develops into the kind of woman her mother was.
Despite the depressing factors that make up 50% of Is America She Gone, I liked the fact that the author constantly compared both countries’ culture and how exactly they differ. From the weather all the way down to the politics.
Still when I read a novel, I want it to distract me from all the noise and chaos of the world I’m in and as silly as it sounds, I love novels that have resolved and close-to-happy endings. Is America She Gone was a highly realistic and heartbreaking story that I really wouldn’t have the heart to read again. But by all means, do check it out.
Publisher: AuthorHouse (November 8, 2012)
Length: 352 pages (Paperback)
Source: MOC (My Own Copy)
Genre: New Adult, Fiction
Completed: November 2013