Oct 26, 11
Read in October, 2011
Heading: Hidden Guilt
Every now and then I read a book that reminds me to be thankful for a loving and nurturing childhood, because a lack of one can often lead to a disturbing adult life. Yvvette Edwards’ impressive debut novel, A Cupboard Full of Coats is such a book for me. The book is a tale of family dynamics, jealousy, tragic betrayals, and guilt that mesmerizes the reader through its searing language and characters drawn so well they fill spaces in the readers mind. Jinx, a 28 year-old woman who is haunted by her childhood, and the brutal murder of her mother 14 years ago, is the book’s main narrator. While these events are always present in Jinx’s mind, she has not spoken about them to anyone so lives her life in a fog, until a person from the past, Lemon, shows up at her door. With teasing language, Ms. Edwards hooks the reader from the beginning. “He just knocked, that was all, knocked the front door and waited, like he’d just come back with the paper from the corner store, and the fourteen years since he’d last stood there, the fourteen years since the night I’d killed my mother, hadn’t really happened at all.” Lemon is back because Berris, the mother’s boyfriend, who was convicted of killing Jinx’s mother, has just been released from prison and has asked Lemon to forgive him. Lemon has his own demons and needs for Jinx to forgive him for past transgressions. Jinx does let Lemon in, and over the course of three days, as the stories goes back forth between the present and the past we are told a tale that will test the limits of forgiveness.
As the truth reluctantly unfurls, and the interactions of Jinx, Berris, Lemon, and the mother are exposed, the reader is treated to lush descriptions of Caribbean food and the lifestyle of the Caribbean immigrants living in the East End of London. The use of food to nourish both the body and the spirit is a strong technique of this book. But, under this facade of gaiety and community, is the darker subject of domestic violence. This is never an acceptable behavior, and while Ms. Edwards does not shy away from the nasty consequences, she does an excellent job of stripping the characters to the core to reveal their warts.
Compelling narrative combined with strong storytelling and vividly flawed yet interesting characters will captivate the reader until the last page. I look forward to reading future works by the author. I recommend this book to readers of literary fiction who enjoy stories of the immigrant experience and family dynamics.
Reviewed by Beverly
APOOO Literary Book Reviews