Recent Trinidadian immigrant Anna Sinclair must balance professional, family, and love life while working as head editor of a New York publishing house subsidiary. Anna is an ambitious 40-something intent on climbing the corporate ladder and making a home for herself in America. She spends her days and nights scouring over submitted manuscripts, editing them with meticulous care before sending them to press. Her ambition pays off. Early in her career, Anna is already advanced in the field. She heads Equiano, a Windsor Pubishing House subsidiary catering to an urban African-American readership.
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Despite her professional and financial successes, Anna is unhappy. She misses her native island of Trinidad; her family, childhood friends, and the familiar comforts of food, church, and belonging. When Anna receives word that her mother is ill, she visits her hometown to in grief, sadness, and despair. To Anna, the conversations she shares with her mother feel stilted and superficial. Indeed, their entire relationship seems rather shallow. Anna wishes her mother would open up to her about the pain, fears, and uncertainty she experiences as she faces her own mortality.
The family pressure Anna's mother until she agrees to go to New Jersey for a surgical operation that may slow the rapid advancement of her breast cancer. The surgery is performed by Paul Bishop, a fellow native Trinidadian with his sights set on Anna. Paul proves supportive throughout the surgery, not only as a medical doctor, but also as a friend; and later, as a lover.
Anna returns to the grind of her publishing career, secure in the hopeful prognosis of full recovery Paul has given concerning her mother. Upon returning to work, she's confronted by Tom Greene, an aggressive and ambitious junior editor seeking to oust her out of her position. Tom claims that Anna is alienated from African-American urban publishing; that she's an outsider who can never truly understand what their readership wants. Tom pressures the owners of Windsor to completely dissolve the subsidiary of Equiano. After several months of heated negotiation, Windsor sides with Tom; dissolving Equiano and leaving Anna without a secure role in the company.
Windsor establishes a new subsidiary and names Tom as the head editor. If Anna wants a job at Windsor, she'll have to work under her nemesis Tom. During this period of uncertainty, Paul and Anna grow closer; becoming an official item, and leaning into one another for support and companionship. Together, they struggle with the challenges of trying to make a home for themselves in the U.S. as Trinidadian-born adult immigrants in a culture they often find alienating and confusing. Paul and Anna decide to marry. They send word back home of their intentions. Anna's father reports improvements in her mother's health, and the family makes plans to bring their kin in from Trinidad for a large traditional Trinidadian wedding celebration.
Best part of story, including ending:
The dual nature of Anna's priorities is interesting and realistic. She constantly faces decisions which seem to split her between Trinidadian loyalties, duties and obligations on the one hand; and American priorities and obligations on the other. This realistic portrayal of the subjective conflicts of an adult-immigrant makes Anna a sympathetic character, and the book an engaging read.
Best scene in story:
Anna is talking with her father by phone near the end of the book. He is reserved with his emotions and is not prone to sudden outbursts of tears or laughter. However, in a vulnerable moment expressing how grateful he is that Anna's mother is recovering from breast cancer, he breaks down into tears over the phone. This scene hints at a tide of emotional outpouring just beneath the surface. Afterwards, you kind of want to read the entire book again just to see what other little moments of emotional expression you may have missed.
Opinion about the main character:
Anna Sinclair is realistically portrayed. It's natural and easy to empathize with her struggles. They are the struggles of many working women: balance between family and work, a certain felt amount of guilt for her material and professional success; and a constant uncertainty as to whether she really deserves that success.