A Mom with a Secret Past Reveals All
Please note that I am now an Affiliate Marketer on Amazon. This means my book reviews will include a link to the book on Amazon. If you purchase the book using my link, I will earn a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you. More details here. Thank you for supporting my Book Blog in this manner.
Imagine that your mother has recently passed away and her attorney tells you that in her waning days, she made an audio recording for you – and your sibling – to hear. In it, she says she wants to explain her life to you (What?! You thought you knew all about her life!) including the fact that you have a sister you have never heard of before.
This is what happens to Byron and Benedetta (Benny) Bennett after the death of their mother, Eleanor, and it is the starting point of Black Cake. The book is set in the United States in 2018, while the story told by the mother takes place on an unnamed island in the Caribbean – and then in the United Kingdom – starting fifty years earlier. The Black Cake in the title is an island recipe with a long history. It is eaten to commemorate all sorts of occasions. Eleanor has left one in the freezer for her three children to share “when the time is right.”
The bulk of the first section of the book tells the story of an island girl, Coventina (Covey) Lyncook. We learn about her mother, Mathilda, and her dad, Lin. We learn about Pearl, who is a family friend, and about Covey’s best girlfriend, Bunny, and Covey’s love interest, Gibbs. There is also the dreaded gangster type guy, Little Man, to whom Lin owes money, and the never-solved mystery of his murder. Uh-oh.
Just as all of this gets really intriguing, the book changes to Part Two and starts talking about Elly. Hmmmm??? Elly??? What’s that all about? It felt abrupt to me.
And once we figure out Elly, along comes Part Three and someone named Etta Pringle. And there is still another transition to Part Four and a woman named Marble.
Beyond all these juicy parts of the past, we learn about Byron and Benny in modern times and about the rift in their relationship. Indeed, Benny has been estranged from her family of origin for a long time. This relationship was not improved when Benny chose not to attend her father’s funeral years earlier. (Or so Byron and Eleanor think/thought.)
Added to all of this is Eleanor’s genetic makeup. Lin was Chinese and Mathilde, Jamaican. (The island where the story takes place is not named but the author tells us in her notes that it “reflects some of the geography and history of Jamaica.”) This combination comes out differently in each of her children and each of them experiences life – in part – due to the color of their skin.
As I read the book – and abruptly made those changes into whole new story lines in Parts Two, Three, and Four – I felt like the book was perfectly written to be a multi-part story on some streaming channel. The fact that the author tied up all loose ends with all the characters added to this sensation. Indeed, I was not surprised to learn Hulu has created a series from this book, airing November 1, 2023. The executive producer is Oprah Winfrey. If that is not enough of an accolade for this book, it was also chosen for Jenna Bush’s Read with Jenna Book Club.
A lot of people will be talking about this book. I’m glad I read it!
I’m glad you found this book review and I hope you loved it. If so, check out my book blog – there are more than 150 reviews for you to explore, with more to come. I publish about three dozen reviews a year.