Queenie Book Review

Queenie Book Review
Queenie Jenkins, the title character of Candice Carty-Williams’s contemporary novel, is a single, Jamaican British, twenty-five year old, who has just broken up with Tom, her live-in boyfriend. Well, to be fair, he asked that she move out so that they could take a break for a few months and re-evaluate their status later. That’s not necessarily a break-up and Queenie is hoping against all hope that they will get back together. However, in the meantime, she’s not taking the separation very well. Unfortunately, it is during their “break” when Queenie begins to realize that Tom could be the love of her life. Now she must wait for months to see if they have a future together.

Like most women, rejection is hitting her hard. Like many women, her self-esteem is directly attached to the man in life. Like some women, her entire life seems to be upended by the break-up (or break, to be fair.) And like few or an unspecified number of women, she engages in risky, self-punishing, sexual behavior and seems to be heading for a full and complete nervous breakdown.

Readers are taken on Queenie’s journey of self-destruction, which includes carrying the burden of guilt and blame that gets heavier with each flashbacks she has of her relationship with Tom. Although it is normal to mourn the sudden loss of a relationship, Queenie’s self-worth suffers abnormally. Readers also get a glimpse as to why her relationships with men are so unhealthy and perhaps why the rejection she is experiencing is nearly unmanageable.

Even though Queenie, the novel, is generally a depressing story, the author is able to navigate her way through Queenie’s ups and downs (mostly downs) by engaging the readers with wit and colorful characters. Those characters, Queenie’s family and friends, are what save this story. Almost everything surrounding Queenie’s interaction with her grandparents could put a smile on the reader’s face, while her close girlfriends’ diversity in opinions and personalities feels like true friendship. Unfortunately, Queenie, the title character, is exhausting to read about, often not relatable and, most of the time, makes it difficult to even to care about her.

One positive message of the book is that therapy, often a stigma in communities of color, helps. Unsurprisingly, Queenie is met with resistance by her Jamaican grandmother when she discovers that Queenie has made an appointment to see a counselor. Her grandmother unceremoniously tells her:

“You know what my madda, your grandmadda, woulda said if me did tell her me ah go seek psychotherapy? You mus’ be MAD.”

It is her grandfather who recognizes “talk therapy” may be just what Queenie (and everyone else in the family for that matter) needs to help with their emotional burdens. It is the support Queenie needs and it is actually the first step to halting her downward spiral. At the very end of the book, readers will see a very small, but positive change in Queenie. Although her change is new and so tentative that it’s not guaranteed to last beyond the final page of the book into the next unwritten scene in this character’s life, it is still hope. And a tiny, little, itty- bitty thread of hope is more than Queenie has had in a long time.

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