Eleanor Bennett left a puzzling inheritance for her children, Byron and Benny. It includes a note, a USB drive with an audio recording, and a traditional black cake from a family recipe found in the freezer.
In her message, Eleanor shares the story of her life. In 1965, a young woman fleeing an arranged marriage and suspicion of murder disappears into the surf. Cutting all ties, she crosses oceans, reinvents herself, and makes heartbreaking choices to take control of her life hoping to reunite with her first love. Byron and Benny haven’t seen each other in years. Can they set aside their differences to deal with their mother’s hidden past?
A Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Historical Fiction and for Debut Novel (2022), and a Book of the Month Book of the Year Award Nominee (2022), Black Cake is a beautiful novel about secrets, family, love, and loss.
The author’s complex plot unfolds in vignettes that alternate among different times, places, and viewpoints. Unfortunately, the multiple alternating timelines/storylines became confusing, even more so as the story progressed. More than once, I double-checked to make sure I was still reading the same book more than once.
I enjoy stories with complex characters, and deep themes, but this author overdid it with social issues. It was just too much. I also found the pacing to be a trifle slow.
Incidentally, black cake is a boozy Caribbean cake filled with dried fruit such as prunes, raisins, cherries, and currants and loaded with dark rum and dessert wine or cherry brandy. I’m not keen on fruitcake, but this one might be worth a try. One must think ahead, though, as the fruit should be soaked in the alcohol for between 7 days and six months.
If you enjoyed Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half, or Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing, this is a good choice. Black Cake is a beautiful, poignant, and descriptive novel from a talented debut author. I look forward to watching the Hulu series, which is scheduled for release sometime in 2023. 4 stars.
*I received a digital copy for review from NetGalley. All opinions are my own.