Fiction, literary fiction

Book Review: Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson

“And what about a person’s life? How do you make a map of that? The borders people draw between themselves. The scars left along the ground of one’s heart.”

Eleanor Bennett has just passed away. She leaves behind a recording for her two children, Byron and Benny who she fondly calls B&B. The recording is nothing either of them expected, especially Benny as she was estranged from both her parents and didn’t speak to them before either of them passed away.

In the recording, Eleanor reveals a lot of family secrets including a history on the Island she is originally from. She gives them one last request and drops a bomb at the same time. She tells them that she has left them a traditional Caribbean black cake in the freezer and they have to eat it together – with their long lost sibling.

“I hope that you won’t be afraid to make the same kind of choice again, if you feel that this is what you need to do to survive. Question yourself, yes, but don’t doubt yourself. There’s a difference.”

This book has all the ingredients for a compelling book – which it was, but for me, even though I liked it, I was not gaga about it like most in the literary world. It is a family multi-generational story with a lot of character. In talking about the Islands, Wilkerson sprinkled in some history that I found interesting. The book spanned from the Islands to the UK and then the United States with MANY characters. I found the book to be very descriptive so it made all the sense when I found out Wilkerson was a former journalist.

“You were never just you, and you owed it to the people you cared about to remember that. Because the people you loved were part of your identity, too. Perhaps the biggest part.”

I mentioned earlier that there were a lot of characters, which may bother some people but it didn’t bother me because as long as a book is written well, I can keep up with the characters. That being said, we get insight into each and every character mentioned except for one, so you have a good idea of who everyone is. I do want to add that I don’t know if we were supposed to be sympathetic to Benny’s character because I wasn’t. I didn’t understand her reasons for being estranged from her parents and she sounded a bit spoiled and stubborn.

“I have lived long enough to see that my life has been determined not only by the meanness of others but also by the kindness of others, and their willingness to listen.”

The biggest drawback of the book was just how the author tried to write about any and everything and at some point, it could be a lot and you realize that it could have used some fine tuning. It’s almost like a book you have to take in small doses. Like I said earlier, I liked the book and do think it’s worth picking up, I just didn’t think it was outstanding. Also, is it just me or has anyone else noticed that we have a bunch of books that are centered around food?


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