Black Cake
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Black Cake

Charmaine Wilkerson

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 with a long history 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’? Will Eleanor’s revelations bring them back together or leave them feeling more lost than ever?

Review

Black Cake is an expansive, engrossing, multi-layered story, encompassing multiple generations of a broken family. Estranged siblings Benny and Byron are reluctantly brought back together in their deceased mother’s home to hear a voice recording she made shortly before her death. Her lawyer, Mr Mitch, insists they must listen to it together or not at all. So unfurls an intriguing and heartbreaking tale that lays bare a family history of secrets and lies. A journey of discovery for Benny and Byron that skilfully skips and weaves through time, from the Caribbean to London to California, and ends with their mother’s famous black cake and a sister they had no idea they had.

It is near impossible to believe that Black Cake is a debut novel. I was utterly immersed in this rich, delicious tale, completely empathetic to the difficult choices characters had to make when there were no other options left. Each and every character is so beautifully written, so fully formed, I had to remind myself more than once they are in fact fictional characters and not people I know. Black Cake feels like a saga in the vein of The Color Purple: the same emotional power, the same ability to draw a reader in so deeply, one feels disoriented when re- entering the real world.

Charmaine Wilkerson is a former journalist and award-winning short fiction writer; perhaps this is why this book feels as if it was written by a long- established author who must surely already have multiple award-winning novels on bookshop shelves. Black Cake ensures she is well on her way to being just that. It is also already in development as a television series produced by Marissa Jo Cerar, Oprah Winfrey, and Kapital Entertainment. I cannot wait to see this on screen.


Tye Cattanach is a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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