Jendella Benson | Nigeria
A young woman named Glory has returned home to the UK for her father’s funeral. She’s very insecure about her past choices that took her to Los Angeles, and this insecurity manifests itself in periodic bouts of anxiety. Returning has opened her eyes to the realization that her family is fractured and trying desperately to cope with several dramatic changes. It also has forced Glory to admit to herself that she abandoned her family when they needed her, and now that she’s back, she wants to try to make amends. In the midst of this she stumbles upon a family secret, but she’s getting resistance from her older sister in trying to find the truth.
Through Glory, we get to learn about her mother’s bouts with depression and the life triggers that have caused her to make a devastating decision that alters the structure of their family. Her husband’s death, her son’s incarceration, and Glory’s time away from the family have all been a heavy burden that Celeste has carried and buried in order to continue with life while being an immigrant in a Western country. It is via Celeste that we get an understanding of the cultural expectations that defined her marriage and structured her religious values.
I found Glory’s love interest Julian to be such an endearing, hip character that encompassed all of the stigmas that society throws at a black immigrant young man trying to live life on his own terms and within the constraints of precariousness that can ruin a life, without being cliché. His character brought an understanding of the hinderances and injustices that are lurking for young men caught in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people.
This Nigerian family is struggling with secrets that bind some but alienate others, and the wider Nigerian community that they are a part of is an interesting mix that illustrated the rules that dictate familial expectations. When the secret is gradually revealed, it highlights the role these characters played in birthing and facilitating a cultural necessity born out of immigration hardship. Benson has done an exceptional job with her debut novel Hope and Glory.