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 journey 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 family and themselves.
This penetrating look at a delicacy filled with emotional turmoil but built into the very soul of a community echoes more sweeping issues of identity. Wilkerson is questioning the very essence of tradition that is known to many people of Caribbean heritage ... a delectable read. Wilkerson’s scenes unfold as quick-paced vignettes, immersing readers into the minds and environments of the characters. It takes us on a journey that forces us to look at how both chance encounters and historical events, such as the transatlantic slave trade and Windrush migration, alter a family. The effects ripple out for generations, and the novel allows for a full reflection on how one’s self-identity can change in an instant.
The chapters come fast and furious...It takes some getting used to at first, but you eventually settle into a rhythm and enjoy puzzling together what happens between each short snippet. It’s 382 pages of flash fiction to fill in those 53 years between Then and Now ... The novel truly puts the 'omni' in its omniscient narrator, with plot driven mostly by internal dialogue and flashbacks. Like the flash fiction format, it’s sometimes confusing initially, but ultimately rewarding when the whole story coalesces by the end. There’s much more to recommend here, including weighty themes about race, identity and protecting the environment, as well as the power of family recipes to convey love without words, but the fun is in the reading ... a satisfying literary meal, heralding the arrival of a new novelist to watch.
... exquisitely paced ... Readers will quickly find themselves immersed in a mysterious, gripping journey, one that unfolds in brief but bountiful chapters and even includes a suspected murder ... Wilkerson navigates multiple points of view and time frames while addressing—always with just the right touch—issues of domestic violence, race, sexual identity, colonialism, prejudice and more. Fans of family dramas by Ann Patchett, Brit Bennett and Karen Joy Fowler should take note. Black Cake marks the launch of a writer to watch, one who masterfully plumbs the unexpected depths of the human heart.