If I Never Went Home
Wow, this novel by first-time author Persaud is phenomenal. It has three different narratives woven together to tell the story of a family and of a place. The first plotline follows Bea, a successful psychologist in Boston, as she receives a letter from her mom and deals with visiting home for the first time in a long time. The second follows Bea ten years earlier when, suffering from crippling depression, she is checked into a hospital against her will and gradually faces her demons. These chapters include a lot of flashbacks, through which we get the entire story of Bea’s life. The third story follows Tina, a ten-year-old living in Trinidad (where Bea was born and raised) as she deals with her mother’s death and growing up feeling like she doesn’t belong. All three of these stories are fascinating on their own, and Persaud slowly brings them together in a way that is subtle and brilliant, creating a beautifully cohesive tale.
One of my favorite things about this book is how wonderfully real Persaud makes everything. Having suffered from depression myself, she perfectly captures the horrible thoughts and feelings that it evokes. Bea’s memories are presented through the lens of her younger self, just as memories are in real life. The narrative voice telling Tina’s story matures with the character, so we always see things from her perspective. This makes the reader feel totally connected to these characters and their stories. Adding another layer of authenticity is the Trinidadian dialect. Bea, having attended college and graduate school in America, has lost the dialect, but the characters still living in Trinidad, obviously, have not. This adds to the sense of place and helps the reader distinguish between Bea and Tina’s chapters right away.
Despite the varying storylines that all take place in different times, you never feel lost. It is always very clear what is happening. Switching between plots creates intrigue, not confusion. Persaud does an excellent job of giving you bits and pieces of information, enough to both guide you through the story and pull you through the pages, but never more than you need. There is mystery and surprise until the very last page.
All together, If I Never Went Home is fantastic. The story is fascinating, the characters are real, the emotions are strong, and the writing is beautiful. I simply cannot recommend this enough.
Blue China Press