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.