Welcome to Paradise — also known as Baxter’s Beach, the Caribbean resort village at the center of Cherie Jones’s dazzling debut novel, How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House ... in Jones’s capable hands, tension builds without diversion. The storytelling is far from breathless, but it will leave you that way: The effect is of a horrific opera in which ugliness is inevitable, but no less gutting when it appears. And in this opera, there are no minor characters. Each one, carefully and vividly crafted, has a crucial part to play ... One of Jones’s many gifts is the ability to show us flawed human beings with their humanity fully intact, to call us to examine the terrible beast within ourselves ... Jones balances the novel’s graphic violence with prose that is both evocative and wistful, haunting.
Rare is the first book that reveals the writer fully formed, the muscles and sinews of her sentences firm and taut, the voice distinctly her own [...] But Cherie Jones’s lavish, cinematic debut, How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House, rises to that high bar, its beguiling title a steppingstone into a Barbados that’s both Caribbean paradise and a crime-riddled underworld. Which is to say: The novel’s a stunner ... Jones’s evocation of Barbados is exquisite, her brushwork assured ... How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House [...] could have veered into melodrama, but Jones is far too savvy a writer, beautifully choreographing entrances and exits as she metes out her story, redirecting our attention at just the moment we think we’ve cracked her code. Through flashbacks, Jones deftly widens the novel’s aperture ... Jones’s prose is supple, often luxuriant, but the structure of her novel is even more impressive as she bobs and weaves through the aftermath of two mysterious crimes. The pieces snap together, one by one, exposing the consequences of dreams deferred. In Jones’s telling, sin and redemption are both personal and communal. With its rich imagery, confident pacing and moral vision, How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House reads like a third or fourth book. Here’s the launch of a stellar literary career.
When a novel is described as 'unflinching,' you know you are in for a tough read ... The titular 'one-armed sister' is drawn from a tale she is told by her grandmother, the moral of which is to avoid the temptation of darkness lest you end up maimed by the monster that lives there. It can also be read as a metaphorical question: how can a woman make a life for herself when her body is under siege? ... This novel, at times, feels relentless. It includes murder, rape, sexual assault at gunpoint, incest/child abuse, domestic violence, and the death of a baby. Jones’s descriptions are vividly haunting, and she uses setting and landscape to compound the horror ... intensely compelling ... It’s a startling achievement. There is very little light in this novel, but what shines through instead is a pitiless truth that stays with you long after the story ends.
In her engrossing and darkly lyrical debut novel, How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House , Bajan author Cherie Jones unspools a discomfiting allegory of race, class and intergenerational trauma in a far from idyllic fictional Caribbean community ... Even as tragedies and indignities pile up, the murkiness surrounding the novel’s events will compel readers to continue reading. Questions arise about how a simple robbery went so wrong and how Baby died—but most importantly, why? What are the roots of these characters’ discontent and recklessness? A bleak and complex picture emerges through this ensemble story, with chapters that alternate between generations and time periods as well as individual points of view. Like the fearsome Wilma, author Cherie Jones is a powerful storyteller. Like the policeman, many readers will feel compelled to follow her into the dark even though there’s precious little joy or light to be found there.
Brutal ... a book of many things: of the limits of romantic and familial love; of intergenerational legacy, certainly; but more than anything else it is a book about the devastating reach of patriarchy on the most vulnerable members of society. The sheer amount of physical violence wielded by men against women and children in the novel left me gasping, and, frankly, depressed, whenever I picked it up ... I expect art to reflect all parts of life — even the most painful — but there were times when the novel's portrayal of its Barbadian protagonists tilted more toward the nihilistic than the realistic ... The plotting and intricate weaving of voices and timelines is powerful in moments, frustrating in others. I wanted to feel more like the story was unfolding on its own, rather than being manipulated by a very deft puppet master. In the same vein, I also wished that the women in the book were given at least a little agency in their lives, even if it wasn't enough to liberate them. Still, if you are looking for a story that explores power, bondage and freedom in the context of a small Caribbean community, How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House has many revelations.
This being the 1980s, shoulder-padded jumpsuits add colour to a narrative intensely flavoured with Bajan patois and local dishes (how about lentils with tarragon and coconut milk?), gospels and reggae. Jones’s fondness for repetition strikes an incantatory note but becomes claustrophobic, too, since the punches keep coming, explicitly detailed until language itself breaks down ...Its victim is once again Lala, still only 18 years old and named after a song by a mother she scarcely knew. Her mother’s story is sickeningly familiar but also, we discover, incomplete. Omitted is a moment of rebellion, of fighting back. Futile, since she still died at her husband’s hand and yet, in the context of this uncompromisingly clear-eyed novel, it almost passes for hope, a glimmer of light at the end of a labyrinthine tunnel.
Jones’s debut is a microscopic look into the lives of local Barbadians and the rich people who colonize their spaces. The pages are filled with the juxtapositions of wealth versus poverty, choice versus survival, and love versus abuse. Told from multiple perspectives, Jones debut novel provides readers with an arsenal of stories, which ultimately validates the reasoning behind the characters’ senseless choices. There is a rhythm to the writing and the words are often a poetic stream of movement. Jones is meticulous, giving a strong pulse to each perspective. The cinematic ending is sure to leave readers wanting more.
The only people enjoying themselves in Paradise are the tourists—at least the ones who haven't been murdered ... The novel moves among the perspectives of several characters, including Mira Whalen, the widow of the murdered man. Mira is a former prostitute whose tourist client left his wife for her; Adan's crime severs her from the amazing life she lucked into, with homes in England and here on the beach, with sweet stepchildren, friends, and travel, and the only conjugal love and happiness evoked in the entire novel. A compelling and terribly sad story of lives defined by trauma generation after generation.
Jones’s intense debut explores the poverty and crime in Baxter’s Beach, Barbados, amid an explosive collision between tourists and locals ... Rich characters and pulsing backstories add a great deal of flavor to the drama. Jones is off to a strong start.