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February 19, 2022

Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson ~ a Review

by MK French

Byron and Benny's mother Eleanor died, leaving behind a voice recording of a tumultuous story, the traditional black cake to share "when the time is right" and a family recipe. As Eleanor's story unfolds, will the siblings repair their relationship?

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Black Cake
February 2022; Ballantine Books; 978-0593358337
audio, ebook, print (400 pages); women's fiction

Black Cake
 is Charmaine Wilkerson's debut novel. Throughout the decades of the family story, we see all the components that go into the formation of a family, and the things that people inherit even when they don't realize they have. Generational trauma is real, and the difficulties that Covey endured on the Caribbean Island of her birth, to where she later emigrated, to her life as an adult are alluded to and never outright named. But we know what happened, and why it affected her life. We also understand the fallout of each danger and decision made in the beginning of the book, and as Eleanor's tale unfolds, we get more glimpses into the past, as well as how her children react to it. Their own stories had been revealed to their siblings or parents in pieces; Byron is affected by his Blackness everywhere he goes despite his excellence in academia, and Benny is caught up in others' dreams and the prejudice others have against her bisexuality.

Although the story spans decades, it doesn't feel like it at all. I was drawn into the family story from the start. I resonated most with Eleanor, but also with Benny and her struggle to live up to everyone else's expectations. It's difficult, and instead of meeting them no matter the cost the way her brother did, Benny opted out entirely. Everyone reacted to trauma in different ways, and it's only by sitting down together and fully opening up to others that they could begin to heal and reconnect. Pride has its place, but not when the family is so fractured and simply needed someone to start bringing them all back together. I enjoyed this book a lot, and hope to read more from this author.

Buy Black Cake at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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  1. I've got this one on my TBR shelf and am looking forward to reading it this spring.