Review: People Person

People Person is a darkly comedic novel of family--that which we're born into, and that which we choose--from Candice Carty-Williams, author of the much-praised Queenie.

Nikisha, Danny, Dimple, Elizabeth and Prynce share very little in common--besides, that is, Cyril Pennington as their (mostly absent) father, who "was not a discriminatory man," having fathered five kids with four women in a five-mile radius in the span of 10 years. Nikisha and Prynce, the oldest and youngest of Cyril's offspring, share a mother; Dimple and Elizabeth boast birthdays just weeks apart in between the two. Danny, the second eldest, once served time in prison and now centers his life on his young toddler; Dimple is a somewhat desperate aspiring influencer with a problematic on-again, off-again boyfriend; Prynce juggles phone calls from any number of women each day; Elizabeth is on track to become a doctor and lives with her long-time girlfriend.

The five meet just once as young adults, when Cyril collects them all in his gleaming gold Jeep for an afternoon at a local park. "This is so none of you ever buck up with each other on road and fall in love or have sex or any of dem tings," Cyril explains to his crew, in what readers will come to recognize as his patently out-of-touch approach to parenting. Each assumes that will be the last they see of one another--until one day Dimple calls Nikisha in a panic after maybe having accidentally killed her boyfriend when he tried to strangle her for breaking up with him. Nikisha subsequently calls the whole bunch, forever binding them together over the pooled blood they must then bleach off of Dimple's mother's kitchen floor before hiding the dead body--which then goes mysteriously missing, creating new problems.

There's good-hearted fun in trying to keep track of each of the Pennington siblings' backstories as their lives smash together in the most unexpected ways. As their stories emerge, so too do their inner selves: who is insecure and who is too cocky, whose laid-back attitude is both a blessing and a curse, who carries their father's abandonment as an open wound and who spurns any measly attempts Cyril makes as a parent. These personalities weave together amid a plot as heartfelt as it is hilarious. Carty-Williams probes hard questions about race, microaggressions and abandonment within a larger, somehow softer story about what makes a family, what makes a friend and what happens when the two are one and the same. --Kerry McHugh, freelance writer

Shelf Talker: A heartfelt and hilarious novel of family, by blood and by choice, from the acclaimed author of Queenie.

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