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People Person

Review

People Person

From Candice Carty-Williams, the internationally bestselling author of QUEENIE, comes PEOPLE PERSON, the highly anticipated sophomore release from one of 2019’s most critically acclaimed authors.

On the day that Cyril Pennington --- too charming for his own good and too flighty for the good of anyone else --- decides that his children should meet, the father of five (from four different mothers) expects a peaceful, maybe even heartwarming reunion. What he gets instead are five angry, resentful Penningtons and five pairs of reproachful eyes staring back at him as he stresses the importance of them knowing each other…lest they end up committing incest by accident. If Cyril seems like quite a character, maybe even a people person, that’s only because you haven’t met Nikisha, Danny, Dimple, Elizabeth (“Lizzie” only to her family, not to her siblings) and Prynce.

"That [Carty-Williams] can present [her characters] to readers so openly and use them so expertly to explore themes like obligation and duty, grief and love, solidifies her role as a voice to be reckoned with --- a real people person, if you will."

Right from the start, the personalities of these five individuals leap off the page. Eldest sister Nikisha, one half of the only full-blood siblings, is commanding, no-nonsense and often bossy, but she also possesses a maternal instinct that puts half the mothers of Cyril’s children to shame. Danny, large and muscled, isn’t book smart, but as a plumber and former prisoner, he has plenty of common sense and know-how. Dimple and Lizzie, the middle of Cyril’s brood who are born less than a month apart to different mothers, couldn’t be less alike, yet both are exquisitely shaped by Cyril’s abandonment. Lizzie is judgmental and closed-off, whereas Dimple is sensitive and loves with her whole heart, even when the recipient doesn’t deserve it.

Rounding out Cyril’s family is Prynce, almost a decade younger than the rest of his siblings and, at first glance, the most like carefree Cyril with his easygoing personality and numerous girlfriends. But unlike Cyril, Prynce cleans up his messes…and, if the plot of PEOPLE PERSON is to be believed, the messes of other people as well.

Formerly overweight and now embracing of her curves, Dimple has struggled to find herself for years, focusing instead on launching a career as an influencer. In two years, she has amassed followers in the (ahem) low hundreds, with her on-again, off-again relationship with her boyfriend, Kyron, informing most of her videos. On the night she posts her most recent video, a confirmation that they are over for good, Kyron storms into the home she shares with her mother and attacks her. Dimple’s laziness with housekeeping via some spilled oil meets with angry Kyron’s rushing feet; before she knows it, he is lying in a pool of his own blood on her mother’s kitchen floor. With no real friends to speak of, Dimple recalls the offer that motherly Nikisha made years ago and calls her for help.

Within the hour, the Pennington kids are reunited again, this time without their father to unite against and with a mission instead: dispose of the body before Dimple’s racist, appropriately named neighbor, Karen, comes knocking after seeing one too many Black people; avoid being questioned, detained or arrested by London’s famously racist police force; and maybe learn to love one another.

While the act that draws the Pennington siblings together is so outrageous as to be almost comical, what follows is decidedly not. Candice Carty-Williams is a careful, astute observer of the human psyche and the complications of unconventional dynamics. As the Penningtons come together --- with delightful pop-ins from their wayward father --- the book’s plot becomes far less about getting away with murder and more about discovering oneself against the stories of the people suited to know you best, whether you like it or not.

As the Pennington children continue to work together to protect Dimple, the most sensitive and needy of them all, they are forced to reckon with their own vulnerabilities, including, most poignantly, their feelings of abandonment for the father who proudly claims to love them all equally: 20 percent per child. While each of Cyril’s children has found ways to fulfill that other necessary 80 percent, Carty-Williams writes each as a fully realized, layered and multifaceted character with his or her own motivations and fears, playing each sibling off one another --- most successfully with polar opposites Dimple and Lizzie --- but also exploring how the bonds of family (or lack thereof) inform each child’s worldview and decisions. But even as she asks readers to root for the Pennington kids to come together and drop the fractions of half- or whole-, she is unafraid to explore the toxicity of familial bonds and the necessity of boundaries and empowerment.

At first glance, none of Cyril Pennington’s children --- or Cyril himself --- are people persons, at least not in the way you might expect. But as Cyril’s youngest, and often wisest, child explains to Dimple, “You are a people person in the way that you get people. You see people. And, like, properly see people. You see us, you see who we all are, in our own way. And you don’t judge us for it. You don’t ask people to be who they aren’t. And I don’t think many people are like that...”

It’s rare, if not unheard of, for an author to review themselves, yet I can think of no better description for Carty-Williams’ writing and her grasp of her characters. That she can present them to readers so openly and use them so expertly to explore themes like obligation and duty, grief and love, solidifies her role as a voice to be reckoned with --- a real people person, if you will.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on September 23, 2022

People Person
by Candice Carty-Williams

  • Publication Date: September 13, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
  • ISBN-10: 1501196049
  • ISBN-13: 9781501196041