First Impression Friday will be a meme where you talk about a book that you JUST STARTED! Maybe you’re only a chapter or two in, maybe a little farther. Based on this sampling of your current read, give a few impressions and predict what you’ll think by the end.
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.
For Christians around the world, today is Good Friday. I hope we were all able to reflect on these past two days. Black Saturday is coming so we have two more days to reflect. To the weary, I hope they were able to utilize the long weekend to recuperate and rekindle the waning flame. I hope that everyone is doing well, physically, mentally, and spiritually. The past two years have certainly been challenging but rays of sunlight have been piercing through the cloud of darkness that was wrapped around us. I hope that this upward trajectory will continue although I read that there are new COVID19 variants emerging in various parts of the world. What we can do, in the meantime, is to remain vigilant and cautious, especially when we are outside the safety of our homes.
To mark the end of the week, I am posting a fresh First Impression Friday update. At the start of the month, I was not sure about what my April reading month is going to look like. I randomly picked books from my bookshelf and it was increasingly becoming palpable that I am subconsciously extending my March Women’s History reading month. And that was how the last two weeks have been. This reading journey was brimming with interesting and insightful books. I have also been alternating new-to-me writers and not-so-new-to-me writers. Yesterday, I completed my second novel by A.S. Byatt, The Children’s Book. It was a lengthy but interesting reading journey. Earlier today, I started reading the work of a new-to-me writer in Charmaine Wilkerson; my current read is Black Cake.
To be honest, the title didn’t appeal to me when I first encountered it earlier this year. Back then, I was researching books to add to my 2022 Books I Look Forward To List. I eventually relented after encountering similar lists that included the book as a highly anticipated 2022 book release. Wilkerson’s debut novel, I was luckily able to obtain a copy of the book towards the end of March. After Sabaa Tahir’s All My Rage and Xochitl Gonzalez’s Olga Dies Dreaming, Black Cake is the third book from my 2022 Books I Look Forward To List that I read. It is also my fourth “new” book.
The titular black cake pertains to a cake that Eleanor Bennett left as an inheritance to her children, Byron and Benny, short for Benedetta. Their mother warmly referred to them as B & B. It was certainly a weird gift to leave to your loved ones upon our death. On another note, the premise was interesting as it turns into a mystery that I wanted to resolve. How does this cake relate to the story of the Bennett family? The black cake was one of two things Eleanor bequeathed her children. The other one was a voice recording addressed to B & B. Through the recording and the bits and pieces, I have surmised that Eleanor and her husband, Bert, were immigrants from an unnamed Caribbean nation; Eleanor simply referred to it as “the islands” in her recording.
So why was there a need for the recording? The first reason was the chasm that has developed between her two children. Benny, free-spirited, wanted to step out of her parent’s idea of success. At 37, she wanted to establish her own cafe. This also created a rift between her and her mother who she didn’t learn was dying from disease until it was already too late. Byron, on the other hand, was the quintessence of success, the exact image their parents had in mind. The second reason for the recording was a long-kept secret that Eleanor finally wanted her children to know. It was also the center of the narrative, at least from what I have gathered so far. Because of this, the novel diverged as flashbacks started to form the “Then” storyline.
I have completed at least 100 pages of the novel, and there is quite a lot that I am looking forward to. Apart from the significance of the cake, I am wondering if the siblings will reconcile. I am also curious if there was trauma hidden somewhere as the siblings seem to be having trouble finding a life partner. I am also interested in what the Black Cake represents, its significance in both the Caribbean context and the Bennett family history. But more than that, I am curious about how the memories and the past will converge with the present. Parts-historical fiction, parts-family saga, there is quite a lot I look forward to in the book. How about you fellow reader? What book are you digging into the weekend? I hope you are enjoying it. For now, happy reading, and have a happy weekend!
By the way, I recall a discussion I read about story synopsis, particularly when they give away too much. Black Cake is a case of a synopsis that is too verbose! I hope that there is more mystery woven in the book that was not already provided by the synopsis.