Following their mother’s death, twins Benny and Byron come together to listen to an audio recording she left them, along with a Caribbean black cake that they are told to eat when the time is right. But first, they must listen: to a history their mother never shared, that began when she was a teen on an island and unfolds in a shocking tale of murder, escape, and abuse—as well as long-held secrets about her own identity and the true nature of their family.
Black Cake is a masterful exploration of generational trauma and how fear can shape lives. Alongside the family narrative is a fascinating food-centered exploration of culture, tradition, and origin, and how those things are changed and shaped over generations. The one will be on many best-of-2022 lists, and it deserves the praise.
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We can’t choose what we inherit. But can we choose who we become?
In present-day California, Eleanor Bennett’s death leaves behind a puzzling inheritance for her two children, Byron and Benny: a traditional Caribbean black cake, made from a family recipe with a long history, and a voice recording. In her message, Eleanor shares a tumultuous story about a headstrong young swimmer who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder. The heartbreaking tale Eleanor unfolds, the secrets she still holds back, and the mystery of a long-lost child, challenge everything the siblings thought they knew about their lineage, and themselves.
Can Byron and Benny reclaim their once-close relationship, piece together Eleanor’s true history, and fulfill her final request to “share the black cake when the time is right”? Will their mother’s revelations bring them back together or leave them feeling more lost than ever?
Charmaine Wilkerson’s debut novel is a story of how the inheritance of betrayals, secrets, memories, and even names, can shape relationships and history. Deeply evocative and beautifully written, Black Cake is an extraordinary journey through the life of a family changed forever by the choices of its matriarch.