After the death of Eleanor Bennett, siblings Byron and Benny are reunited after a long estrangement. Byron is a celebrated scientist and Benny (short for Benedetta) has been struggling with making a living and with her relationships. Byron and Benny meet with Eleanor’s lawyer who has been tasked with playing them a recording made before she died. Part of Eleanor’s very specific instructions includes giving her children a special black cake she made for them to share “when the time is right”. The rum-filled cake from the Caribbean represents an important family tradition. Eleanor's audio recording reveals a hidden and shocking story starting in the 1960s that changes everything Byron and Benny know to be true about their mother. Other than knowing their mother was born in the Caribbean and was a strong swimmer, these new details of Eleanor’s journey from her place of birth to living in London and ultimately settling in California, finally disclose her secrets including stories of abuse and possibly murder.
Black Cake is a beautifully written, multi-generational family saga. Author Charmaine Wilkerson's engaging story is as densely textured as the family's black cake. In addition to the true story of Eleanor and their father Bert, we learn of Benny’s quest for acceptance and Byron’s on-going battle with racism including his outrage for being continually stopped by the police simply because he is a Black man. The struggles of each generation were heartbreaking as the characters come to terms with their own identities.
Many thanks to Ballantine Books and Random House for the opportunity to read an advance of such an impressive, moving debut novel.
Watch for an Oprah-produced television series adaptation of Black Cake to make its way to Hulu. Hopefully soon.
Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Contemporary & Historical Fiction.
Publication Date: February 1, 2022.
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