If I Never Went Home is the haunting story of two different women over the course of ten years who come from the same place (Trinidad) and are on separate paths in life until the day they collide and nothing is ever the same again. Beatrice Clark—she prefers to be called Bea—is an immigrant living in Boston. She has had a troubled life and has never quite come to terms with the complicated relationship she had with her father, and the way her former community viewed him. All of Bea’s problems confront her head on when she lands herself in a clinic to deal with her psychological issues. Tina’s story begins when she is just a girl of ten and experiences the loss of her mother. A family member takes her in, but Tina never feels fully loved or appreciated. As she grows older, she looks for love in all the wrong places while trying to take on adult responsibility.
Ingrid Persaud does a wonderful job of giving each section a very different voice. Bea’s story is written in third person, while Tina’s story is written in first person. Of the two, Bea’s narrative is easier to follow; Tina’s is challenging because her English is very broken. It makes her story a bit more difficult to read, but between the two, I was more curious about Tina and her struggle to break away from her family and her tragic past so that she could start over.
Persaud drops hints throughout If I Never Went Home on how Bea and Tina might be connected; the truth of it is even more horrifying than what I had been expecting. I know next to nothing about what life might be like growing up in Trinidad, but Persaud included enough societal details that it gave me a clearer picture of the struggles the people there face and how blood ties people together.
Both protagonists grow so much over the ten years that the reader gets to know them. They are flawed individuals, but by the end of the novel I felt as if each had finally found the place she was meant to be. But as I read the very last page and certain things began to make complete sense, I was chilled. If I Never Went Home is a true survivor story; it sugar coats nothing. Expect to be shocked, saddened, and horrified by many of the uncomfortable realities of these characters. Even so, you’ll hopefully be rooting for them to overcome their individual struggles and lead happier lives.
Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Ingrid Persaud. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.