I first heard about this book at a online showcase event last November and it really caught my attention. I was a little later than I planned getting around to reading it but once I started, I couldn’t put Black Cake down. My thanks to the publishers for my review copy via Netgalley. Black Cake is published by Michael Joseph and available now in hardback and ebook editions.
From the back of the book
Eleanor Bennett won’t let her own death get in the way of the truth. So when her estranged children – Byron and Benny – reunite for her funeral in California, they discover a puzzling inheritance.
First, a voice recording in which everything Byron and Benny ever knew about their family is upended. Their mother narrates a tumultuous story about a headstrong young woman who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder, a story which cuts right to the heart of the rift that’s separated Byron and Benny.
Second, a traditional Caribbean black cake made from a family recipe that Eleanor hopes will heal the wounds of the past.
Can Byron and Benny fulfil their mother’s final request to ‘share the black cake when the time is right’?
Or will Eleanor’s revelations leave them feeling more lost than ever?
I thought that Black Cake was absolutely brilliant and I was glued to the story from the first page to the last. I was completely caught up in the life of Eleanor Bennett and the various friends and family whose lives she touches.
At the heart of the book is Eleanor and what a memorable and wonderful creation she is. She has been through so much in her life, putting parts of it behind her and keeping secrets from her children and her husband. But with death approaching, she needs them to know who she is and add to their knowledge of who they are.
The story is told through a series of vignettes from the perspectives of a variety of different characters at different points of their lives and brought together into a bold, big-hearted, colourful story. We are shown how all the experiences combine to make each character who they are and what they are. It’s a story about identity: hiding it, reinventing it, discovering it.
Much in the way that separate ingredients combine almost magically to make a cake, so the elements of this book combine into this fantastic debut novel. I can’t wait to read more from Charmaine Wilkerson who I think is an exceptionally talented storyteller.
About the Author
Charmaine Wilkerson is an American writer who has lived in Jamaica and is based in Italy. A graduate of Barnard College and Stanford University, she is a former journalist whose award-winning short fiction has appeared in various magazines and anthologies. Black Cake is her first novel. Black Cake is in development as a Hulu original series produced by Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films, Marissa Jo Cerar and Kapital Entertainment