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How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House

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A debut novel in the tradition of Zadie Smith and Marlon James, from a brilliant Caribbean writer, set in Barbados, about four people each desperate to escape their legacy of violence in a so-called "paradise."

In Baxter Beach, Barbados, moneyed ex-pats clash with the locals who often end up serving them: braiding their hair, minding their children, and selling them drugs. Lala lives on the beach with her husband, Adan, a petty criminal with endless charisma whose thwarted burglary of one of the Baxter Beach mansions sets off a chain of events with terrible consequences. A gunshot no one was meant to witness. A new mother whose baby is found lifeless on the beach. A woman torn between two worlds and incapacitated by grief. And two men driven by desperation and greed who attempt a crime that will risk their freedom -- and their lives.

278 pages, Hardcover

First published January 21, 2021

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About the author

Cherie Jones

2 books284 followers
Cherie Jones is an award-winning author from Barbados. Her debut novel HOW THE ONE-ARMED SISTER SWEEPS HER HOUSE has been critically acclaimed by several publications including the The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post and is Good Morning America's Bookclub pick for February, 2021. Cherie's past publication credits include PANK, The Feminist Wire and Eclectica. She is a past fellowship awardee of the Vermont Studio Centre and a recipient of the Archie Markham Award and A.M. Heath Prize from Sheffield Hallam University (UK).

Cherie currently lives in Barbados with her children where, in addition to her writing, she works as a lawyer and indulges her passion for chocolate.

Meet her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cheriejones...

She's also on Facebook:

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,980 reviews
Profile Image for Marchpane.
293 reviews2,105 followers
April 29, 2021
Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize 2021

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House is a story set in Barbados about generational cycles of abuse, misogyny and subjugated women. One of the characters becomes a great-grandmother at 46 years of age (that fact tells you a lot about the kind of story this is).

This book’s traumas are so relentless—incest; viscerally brutal beatings; an incident you might call infanticide via neglect. There is really no light with the shade here, not that you necessarily need light and shade to tell a sad story. The never letting up is precisely the point this novel is making. And I have no doubt this is (tragically) true-to-life for many women out there.

But in a work of fiction, this has the effect of flattening everything about the characters to this aspect of their experience. I was never less than 100% conscious that I was reading about invented people, sketches on a page who only exist in order to show me this violence. It was a barrier between me and the characters that only grew, brick by brick, as each awful, violent incident unfolded.

As for technical merit, my only criticism is that the novel is a little imbalanced. It’s very clearly Lala’s story; hers is the narrative you become invested in. Mira initially appears to be a counterweight to Lala, they are two women from similar backgrounds whose fates led them in different directions. But by the end, Mira’s story has not developed enough to fulfil this function, and she lands awkwardly: something more than a background character in Lala’s story, yet less than equal co-protagonist.

This novel is well-written and constructed, an intense, difficult read. Perhaps even suffocating in its intensity. For many it will prove to be a worthwhile experience, just proceed with caution.
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,087 reviews30.1k followers
April 22, 2021

Thanks for the amazing buddy read, Beth!

Sometimes you hold a book in your hands you know from the very first chapter it's going to take you on a journey with characters who climb right into your heart, and that was absolutely this book for me.

In precise, yet atmospheric, prose, I was swept away to Barbados in the (mostly) 1980s. Lala and Mira’s story addresses poverty, class, race, drug trafficking, love, domestic violence, and motherhood; all in a way that could not have felt more authentic and true-to-life.

In a mere sentence, I could visualize where the characters were through all my senses, viscerally. With a short paragraph, Jones delivered a backstory on a character so broad and deep, I could feel intense empathy or disdain and every emotion in between.

The beauty of this story is in its authenticity. Real life is not always pretty.

Powerful, beautifully-written (Cherie Jones’ talent and skill are masterful), engrossing, and everything I love in a book, How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House is definitely one of my 2021 favorites. Books like this are exactly why I read.

I received a gifted copy.

Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader
Profile Image for Debbie.
433 reviews2,744 followers
March 20, 2021
Hopped on the pogo stick, oh yeah….

This one has me hoppin’, I’ll tell you that. From my chair, I went to Barbados and got involved with some locals who grabbed me and held me hostage for a few days. There are several compelling tales going at once, but it’s the story of a woman named Lala that kept me most riled up. Well, okay, these down-and-outers didn’t MAKE me read their tragic stories, but I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. I simply couldn’t put this book down!

First of all, did anyone say atmosphere? The pictures the author paints are vivid—I felt my toes in the sand, I heard the ocean waves, I saw the local women braiding tourists’ hair on the beach. I’m a sucker for exotic locales anyway. I can’t stress enough how atmospheric it is—and the author achieves this without writing long, descriptive clumps. She just weaves in the visuals, oh so skillfully.

And the language, oh the language! It slayed me! Colorful, jazzy, plaintiff, twisty. So alive! I get all wound up—well, sort of manic, actually—when words are stuck together so beautifully. I’d reread paragraphs just for fun. There is some dialect, and it adds to the story, in my opinion. Often dialect is too hard for me to understand, but not here. It has such rhythm, it enhances the music.

I will say that the story is very depressing; all the relationships are disasters and there’s a fair amount of violence. There’s lots of abuse by men (so if you get triggered when reading about abuse, you’ll probably want to avoid this one.) All of this makes for an intense read. Despite the unending tragedy, though, I found the book utterly seductive.

As usual, I don’t want to give anything away. It’s best to go into it blind, like I did (because then the wallops are bigger and better). It’s an emotional read. Lala’s life is so hard, so tragic, it will get under your skin. There are others with super sad stories, too. Besides the abuse, there’s murder, burglary, a newborn, drug deals, hookers, an evil guy, a detective, a sad grandma, rich tourists. There’s plenty of suspense, which made it hard to put the book down. Each chapter is told from the point of view of one of the characters. There’s a little jumping around, but it’s never confusing.

Right after I started reading, I was so stunned by the book’s brilliance that I had to stop and check out this book, this author. I cannot believe this is a debut, I cannot! Come to find out, the author, Jones, is a lawyer by day. This does not compute! How can she be so logical in the day and so imaginative at night? And get this: the way she creates characters is that they talk to her in her head! In one interview, Jones talks about how she started creating a character when she was on a bus and a person was talking to her. The interviewer assumed that Jones used the person’s story to form the character. Oh no, there was not a real person talking to her on the bus—the person was in her head! Such a cool way to write! And meanwhile, this writer seems grounded and self-assured—not someone who hears voices. I’ve never heard of a writer getting talked to by a character, but maybe it’s common for all I know.

The weird title makes sense after you read the first chapter. And yes, the title is insanely long, but you have to admit it grabs you. I love it (though it’s really annoying when you’re trying to put it in a list!). And the cover—such rich colors! Makes me want to hold the book in my hands forever so I can look down at the eye candy any time I want. I wish the title was lowercase and smaller, but still, I love it.

This is a book that will stay with me. It’s just brilliant. Ha, at first I thought this one was a secret gem; I was all ready to be an unpaid marketer who pushes this book out there for all to see. I wanted to share the love! But then I found out it was a Good Morning America book club selection. What? Who knew GMA had a book club? I’m glad the book is getting lots of press; it deserves it.

In an interview, the author said she is working on another novel, but in the meantime she’s writing some flash fiction. I’m in line for whatever comes out of her pen, I guarantee you.

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.
Profile Image for Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer.
1,746 reviews1,196 followers
August 24, 2021
Re-read following its deserved shortlisting for the 2021 Women’s Prize. That prize had a very varied longlist of 16 books, with this I think the hardest hitting book and, sadly, the most topical despite its almost tragically timeless theme of male violence towards women. It does make though for a bleak and violent read.

The book is set in 1984 Barbados (and written by a Bajan author) – in the fictional beach resort of Baxter Bay. It is tempting to say something like - the book portrays a side of Barbados that the rich tourists flocking to the Platinum Coast do not see; but to be honest I think you would have to be a fairly self-absorbed tourist not to see the poorer and darker side of the Island.

The book is written in a series of short, third party point of view chapters – the two main points of view being those of Lala and Mrs (Mira) Whalen – and the book opens with tragedy striking both.

Mira grew up on the Island before snagging an English tourist as a husband and going to live with him in Wimbledon with his two children from his first marriage (but never any of their own). After he discovers an affair she has been having, more from ennui, he proposes a return to their villa in Barbados to try and rekindle their relationship, but after a row they are disturbed by an armed burglar and a fracas ensues interrupted by a doorbell.

The person ringing the bell is Lala – a young girl married to an increasingly violent Adan. Lala’s mother Esme is dead and her grandmother Martha (who lives with her once lecherous now helpless husband) has largely disowned her due to her running off with Adan. While Lala makes money braiding tourists hair, Adan steals most of his. Lala rings the bell (picking a villa at random) as she is desperate for help as she thinks she is losing her baby – but inadvertently she has picked the villa that Adan is raiding and in the chaos he murders Mira’s husband. Lala and Adan’s baby just about survives only to be lost in a terrible accident following a row – something they then try to cover up (aided by Adan’s right hand man Tone – a rasta giglo) , only succeeding in attracting the attention of the local police officer Beckles (himself obsessed by a local prostitute Sheba who wants to keep their relationship strictly professional) – who, having been passed over for the murder case, is desperate to solve the mystery of the baby’s death.

The other characters mentioned in the above all have point of view chapters also.

Two of Lala’s chapters switch very effectively to the second person. The first is a short but tragic list - “These is the reasons why you baby dead”; the second something of a tour de force and very much the heart of the book as it explores the question “How do you learn to love a man?”

Because ultimately this is a book about the trauma women go through at the hands of men – both those they love, those they know and don’t love and those they don’t know.

It is about how experience of previous generations, passed down to them as societal and familial expectations and teachings, shape and influence their life choices and responses to their own traumas: with what seem like lessons to be avoided from previous generations ending up inevitably repeated “Because, despite your best efforts, you are just like your mother.”

Overall this is a powerful book which I think well deserves a place on the shortlist.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,414 reviews7,420 followers
February 4, 2021
What are secrets but things we want to forget?

I was yesterday years old when I discovered this existed . . . .

Turns out I’ve read nearly all of their selections. And not only read them, but liked them all as well.

I won’t lie and say I immediately knew How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House was going to be a winner for me. I didn’t really remember what it was about when I started it – I just remembered I had an ARC. There were MANY characters and the timeline did the wibbly wobbly to provide histories and backstories. But once I settled in and started “getting” the way it was being delivered, I never put it down.

This is the story of a young woman, her abusive husband, their dead baby, her mother, a grandmother, a widow, a childhood friend and a detective. It is about a robbery gone wrong. An accident so bad it has to be covered up. It’s about drug dealing and wife beating and exchanging whatever wares you have to offer for the American tourist dollar. It is unrelenting in its agony. A true skillet to the face type of story. It takes you from the present to the past to provide a fully painted portrait of its characters and it is woven together almost seamlessly.

Thanks to the MacMillan Reading Insiders Club for offering selections I don’t even know I want until you tell me about them.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,311 reviews660 followers
February 17, 2021
After listening to “How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House” by Cherie Jones (narrated by Danielle Vitalis), I don’t want to go to Barbados. This story takes place in fictional Baxter’s Beach, a place that attracts wealthy tourists. And Jones shows the seedy underbelly of the upscale vacation land. I’m sure most tourists notice the poverty that most Caribbean islanders endure, whether that be Barbados, Turks & Caicos, Antigua, etc. The wealth of the visitors must spark anger in the islanders, and Jones decided to write about that.

The title is a cautionary tale told at the beginning of the novel, that is used to keep girls in line and listen/obey. No one wants to end up like the one-armed sister who didn’t listen. Sadly, LaLa, one of the main characters, didn’t heed her grandmother’s warning and finds herself pregnant at 18 with a gangster husband.

LaLa’s story is sad enough, and then Jones introduces Mira, who dug herself out of the poverty by marrying a wealthy British man, and that man ends up being shot in the beginning of the story. Mira’s anguish is distressing through the entire story.

LaLa’s husband Adan is a sociopath who creates turmoil wherever he goes. He’s an islander who is a grifter with brutality instincts. One could say he was raised that way.

The three characters collide making this one of the saddest stories I’ve listened to. What is a tropical beautiful island to visitors is a brutal and depressing life to the islanders. This is beautifully written and narrated perfectly. It should come with a cautionary warning: You will be devastated after reading this one. The story illuminates the ongoing issues of race, class and poverty and generational trauma.
Profile Image for BookOfCinz.
1,390 reviews2,278 followers
October 11, 2020
The story opens with a Grandmother telling her daughter a tale about two sisters, a good sister and a “bad” sister. The bad sister went to a place she was told not to go to because there were monsters and got one of her arms bitten off, leaving her with one functioning arm. The Grandmother told this story to her granddaughter as a cautionary tale, but with every cautionary tale there is one brave persons wanting to see for themselves.

The real story of How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House is set in a small beach town in Barbados. We meet hair-braider Lala is about Lala who is about to give birth but her husband, Adan is now where to be found. She finally tracks her Husband as he is in the middle of a “job”, she gives birth to her baby. The next day her husband is no where to be found and the island is alive with news of the murder of a rich white tourist.

The author takes us into the life of Lala, struggling to make a life for herself, to be the wife she should be, but her past keeps catching up to her. Themes of poverty, sexual abuse, poverty, crime, prostitution and murder was explored. I particularly loved hearing of Lala’s relationship with her Grandmother and how she grew up.

There is a lot going on in this book and I did enjoy how fast paced a read it was. I felt the ending tied up a bit too fast but overall, it was a solid debut novel.
Profile Image for Prerna.
220 reviews1,256 followers
June 28, 2021
Shortlisted for the Women's Prize For Fiction, 2021.

Trigger warnings: violence, rape, domestic abuse, child abuse, trauma.

This is absurd, why don't books come with trigger warnings? I understand that the author was trying to show the disparities and violence inherent to a system overrun by racism, patriarchy and poverty but this book was so full of pain. It had a graphic depiction of a domestic abuse scene in which the protagonist's breast was violently bitten and I couldn't help but feel a phantom pain in my own breast. Everytime the injury was described and Lala (one of the protagonists) winced in pain, I did too. I physically struggled to get through this book.

The author repeatedly uses names of the characters and maybe it was supposed to be for emphasis, but I just got annoyed. And there were so many synonyms within a single paragraph that I suspect a thesaurus was used during the writing, which in itself isn't a bad thing but the writing isn't smooth.

The narratives kept shifting between second and third person, but it was always so discordant and took me right out of the flow. I guess the second person narrative in painful chapters was intentional, it was supposed to help me understand why the characters made certain choices. It was to help the readers empathize. But throw in some trigger warnings!
Profile Image for BookOfCinz.
1,390 reviews2,278 followers
March 22, 2021
Updated March 22, 2021

I choose How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House as the March BookOfCinz Book Club pick after reading the advanced copy in 2020. I felt this is a book that would elicit very strong emotions, give us a lot of material to talk through and explore.

The book is set in Baxter Beach, a small beachside community in Barbados. On the night that the main character, Lala gives birth there is a murder at one of the villas. Lala is a new mom whose husband is in hiding and not able to share the joy of having a new addition to the family. Added to this Lala does not have a support system, her mother is dead and her she is estranged from her grandmother. After leaving home at an incredibly young age, Lala must now survive on her own.

One of the main themes in this book is generational curses, how trauma is passed from mothers to their daughters. I think Cherie did a great job of showcasing that in a really moving way. There is a deep sadness that continues throughout the book and it does not lift, even after you close it. This is not your light easy beach read, you are taken into the lives of the people in the community.

I think what stood out for me was theme of classism and colorism, how that played out on the beach front. We see a hair braider interacting with a villa owner and how their lives shift but comes together.

What I liked about the writing was how Jones was able to truly showcase the characters. I love reading a character with a strong back story and I felt that Jones spend a lot of time developing the stories of the characters. I also felt each character could have their very own spin off including Queen Sheba, Sargent Beckles and Mira.

There is something for everyone in this book. A very strong debut novel.
Profile Image for Peter Boyle.
480 reviews584 followers
April 25, 2021
This story is set in the fictional location of Baxter's Beach, Barbados. Lala is an 18-year-old woman who braids the hair of tourists to earn money. She's pregnant and lives with her husband Adan in a run-down shack. Alone at home one night, she feels the baby coming and begins to panic. Running outside to the nearest house, a villa, she presses frantically on the buzzer for help. She hears a loud bang and a piercing scream, and to her surprise, Adan emerges. He's furious at being interrupted, and they get out of there as fast as they can. The baby is born, but the problems begin to mount. Adan won't face up to the consequences of his actions that night, and Lala feels trapped in their marriage, taking the blame for all of their misfortune. Meanwhile, Mira Whalen, the woman whose scream Lala heard, looks back on how her life led to that eventful moment, and realises that things have changed forever.

I probably wouldn't have read this book had it not been nominated for the Women's Prize for Fiction, but I'm glad I did. It's a promising debut: Cherie Jones examines an abusive relationship in a nuanced, perceptive manner and contrasts the struggles of the poverty-stricken locals with the wealthy blow-ins. My one complaint is that is that she tries to include the voices of too many characters, which results in some of them feeling underdeveloped. I never really understood the motivations of Adan for example - he seemed like a two-dimensional villain to me. Nevertheless, the author's voice is fresh and assured. She's off to a fine start.
Profile Image for Linda.
Author 2 books141 followers
May 2, 2021
Short-listed for the 2021 Women's Prize for Fiction

How the One-Armed Sister sweeps the House is a debut novel and is an impressive first. It drew me into a world I knew little about, Baxter Beach, a hypothetical beach community in Barbados, a paradise for wealthy tourists and a hellish trap for its impoverished inhabitants who live at the edge. Poverty and inequity provide the backdrop for the main focus of the novel intergenerational domestic abuse and its impact on women.

Lala, the protagonist, is an 18-year-old woman who eeks out a living beading tourists' hair on the beach. Lala is married and has become pregnant by Adan, a handsome and abusive thief. The latter kills a British tourist during a botched robbery on the evening of his daughter's premature birth. The story centers on the aftermath of their daughter's traumatic birth and accidental death amidst the dual investigation of both events as Adan's abusive behavior spirals out of control.

To author Cherie Jones' credit, the story never descends into melodrama. Instead, her writing is crisp, almost matter-of-fact, descriptive of the world as it is. She uses multiple narratives to move the story back and forth through time, providing Lala's family history of domestic abuse and Adan's history as a bully and abuser. The story is well-paced, and Jones maintains the tension throughout.
I had difficulty putting this powerful, sad work of literary fiction down. However, I look forward to reading Jones's future work.

Profile Image for Roman Clodia.
2,392 reviews2,386 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
March 29, 2021
A worthy topic with pertinent things to say about the gritty underside of a Caribbean 'paradise' - but I don't respond well to convenient coincidences to drive a plot, or to 'chain of circumstance' storylines. We probably can't have too many books that foreground global social inequalities and male violence against women - but I felt very detached from the writing and characters here and dnf'd after the first few chapters.
Profile Image for Dianne.
556 reviews890 followers
May 27, 2021
I loved this debut novel set in Barbados, centering around a diverse group of interconnected characters who are all hard-luck cases in some way or another. It’s a tough read in that it is filled with incidents of abuse, incest, rape, and other forms of violence but it is not overly graphic in nature and these incidents are central to the stories of these characters. Unless you are very sensitive to these triggers, I wouldn’t let the seeming darkness of the content discourage you from reading this. It’s a gem.

The writing is excellent, the characters beautifully and realistically developed and relatable. The book has multiple POVs and there is some movement back and forth in time over generations but most of the story is focused in the present around four main characters - Lala, a young local woman married to a mercurial and abusive petty criminal, Adan; Adan’s and Lala’s friend, Tone; and Mira, a wealthy white woman whose life becomes tragically intertwined with theirs.

Highly recommend. I especially enjoyed the Bajan slang dialogue between the Barbadian characters. A 4.5 for me, I may come back and give this a 5 if I keep thinking about it. Pretty amazing for a debut novel.

For those that have read the book, a random silly thought/observation:
Profile Image for Betsy Robinson.
Author 9 books1,019 followers
June 14, 2021
My books are sorted on their shelves in a way that only makes sense to me, so I'm not sure if what I'm going to write about shelf placement of How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House will make sense to anybody else, but I'll try to explain.

I would place this book in a group with Kevin Ansbro's The Fish that Climbed a Tree because of the nonjudgmental way it deals with extreme evil. There are passages in Jones's book that made me gasp, but still there was a matter-of-factness to it that was both disarming and literarily seductive.

I would put Andrea Levy's historical novel Small Island in its vicinity because, although the books have little in common as far as historical era or general flavor, they both are inhabited by West Indian characters—particularly, strong women—who have a lot in common and make me feel as if I'm living in that culture, and not as a visitor. As a resident. I like that intimacy.

And I absolutely would add to this group Oyinkan Braithwaite's unclassifiable Nigerian tour de force My Sister, the Serial Killer because it similarly conveys violence as just a part of life, floats in a deep ocean of psychological understanding for everyone's plight and all that is not expressed, and does it with similar taut writing and excellent technique.

Like the sibling books I've mentioned, How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House has a fearless bawdiness about human functions—physical and psychological—that reeks of a truer truth than less complex writing. And by "complex" I do not mean anything remotely self-conscious, complicated, or literary. I mean that complex human stuff is what it's made of—the plot, the characters, the author's understanding of what she's writing.

The title reminds me of the Black saying about "making a way where there is no way." It is the right title for this book, and that's as much as I'm going to say about the breathtaking plot.
Profile Image for Hugh.
1,254 reviews49 followers
May 8, 2021
Shortlisted for the Women's Prize 2021
This was the only book on this year's Women's Prize shortlist that I hadn't read when it was announced, and like the other five on the list there were plenty of things to like about it but nothing that really stood out as exceptional. It is also the first book I have ever read by a Barbadian writer.

The book is written in short chapters each of which is told from a particular character's perspective. At the heart of it all is Lala, a young woman married to Adan, a violent thief and drug dealer. At the start of the book she is about to give birth, but Adan is burgling the beach house of a rich white settler, who is killed. Lala's baby dies after a fall during an argument with Adan.
Other major characters include Wilma (Lala's grandmother and former guardian), Mira, the widow of the murder victim and Tone, Adan's partner in crime and Lala's first lover, and Beckles, a police sergeant whose deductions about both the murder and the baby's death are mostly wrong.

It is largely a tale of how women survive in a society dominated by violent and unreliable men, and shows Barbados as far from the tourist paradise many of its visitors experience.
Profile Image for Kathleen.
1,301 reviews119 followers
March 19, 2021
The underbelly of paradise is on full display in Jones’ well-written debut novel. For the tourists on the island of Barbados, the sand-washed beaches represent an escape from reality. It is a different story for the inhabitants who braid hair, become gardeners/house servants, or even sell themselves to the tourist trade.

Jones tells their story of poverty, class, and racism through four main characters—Lala, her husband Aden, the gigolo Tone, and Mira Whalen. The tension builds and builds. The atmosphere is menacing, claustrophobic and brutal. There is a dead baby found on the beach, a murder, domestic violence, and rape. It is primarily the result of toxic masculinity—the fragility of the male ego that readily resorts to violence rather than to be perceived as weak. The only glimmer of light occurs at the novel’s conclusion.

The title refers to a morality tale told by Lala’s grandmother that warns her to avoid the temptation of darkness lest you end up maimed by the monster that lives there.
Profile Image for MaryBeth's Bookshelf.
373 reviews83 followers
February 22, 2021
I loved this book. It was better than I expected, but I don't really know what I was expecting. I listened to the audio version and I found the narrator's voice to be both haunting and intoxicating. I was immediately sucked in. That being said, this book is filled with *a lot* of trauma. It was difficult to read, but so well written and so important.
Profile Image for Paul.
1,160 reviews1,920 followers
March 13, 2023
3.5 stars
“If you must learn to love a man, he is probably not the man you should be loving.”
"In her dreams, one good chop, the kind that slices bone like butter, is all it would take".
This is a debut novel and is set in Barbados in 1984. The blurb describes this as unflinching; you know then there is going to be a significant level of violence. There is rape, murder, violence towards women (which feels routine), drug dealing, incest, sexual assault, gun crime, the death of a baby to name a few. It focuses on male violence towards women and the inability of men to control themselves. The main character Lala is married to Adan, an increasingly violent man.
Each chapter takes the point of view of a different character and the timeline jumps around so the reader is almost following two stories at once. It is pretty much set on the beach in a tourist area. However paradise has an underside and even coconut trees can be sinister:
“These are not the trees of postcards, not the type you tie your hammock to and lay under with a good book and a rum punch. These trees throw shadows with claws onto the steps and sometimes, when the wind is high, they throw coconuts you have to dodge for fear they could kill you. The fronds of these trees are home to centipedes that fall out while dreaming and land writhing on the steps to Adan’s house.”
The novel looks at three/four marriages over a twenty year time period and considers how history can repeat itself. The interplay between poverty, misogyny and abuse is explored. It is also about inter-generational relationships between women:
“Esme would have explained to her daughter, if she had lived, why, despite all this, she did not say no, why she had stood in the cramped bedroom she shared with a man she did not love and watched him get on one knee and present her with a box with a thin gold band crowned by the single small diamond he had slaved the better part of a year for. She would have said to her that she did not wish this for her own daughter – the responsibility of having to say yes to a man for whom this proposal was the singular objective of several months’ unrequited affection.”
There is a great deal of violence in this novel and some have found it too much. The violence is clearly there for a reason and illustrates male violence and their lack of control, along with the resilience of women. Not a new theme, but it is powerful and the story takes the reader along. I think I would have liked a bit more exploration of the interior lives of those involved, but that’s just me asking for a longer novel as usual. Some of this is difficult to read. The title of the novel illustrates one of the novel’s dilemmas. How to carry on living when you have been so damaged by life and those you have loved.
Profile Image for Eric Anderson.
653 reviews3,200 followers
April 18, 2021
The beach in Barbados where this novel is set may be promoted in tourist brochures as a holiday spot known as Paradise, but the reality is anything but idyllic. On the other side of high-walled expensive houses the real residents of this area dwell in much more ramshackle accommodation and many barely make a living by working as cleaners, hairdressers, drug dealers or prostitutes to visiting foreigners. Economic disparity couldn't be any more evident and the way this is so sharply described shows how it underpins much of the horrific violence in this novel. The story mainly switches focus between two characters. There is Lala, a young wife, mother to a newborn baby and island resident who is the victim of persistent domestic abuse. And there is also Mira Whalen, a woman who married into wealth and whose husband is shot dead during an attempted robbery of their upscale holiday home. The novel explores the way their stories intersect alongside a group of characters surrounding them and frequently tunnels into their backstories. However, events primarily revolve around dramatic crimes which occur in the late summer of 1984.

Read my full review of How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones on LonesomeReader
Profile Image for Darryl Suite.
481 reviews351 followers
July 13, 2021
Brutal, dark, and depressing. Definitely one of those trigger warnings type of books. Major themes include male violence against women, toxic masculinity, misogyny, poverty, social class, locals vs tourists, murder, death, grief, guilt. There could be valid arguments about whether this novel classifies as trauma porn. It is relentless when it comes to tragedy. It gets more and more intense as it goes. I can't recall even one moment that was a source of light. This book is as claustrophobic as it comes. A bold new voice.
Profile Image for Miriam Smith (A Mother’s Musings).
1,500 reviews151 followers
January 14, 2021
The intriguingly named “How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House” by Cherie Jones is one powerful and raw debut novel, that is both heart wrenching and brutal and not for the faint hearted.
Set in Baxter’s Beach Barbados, we see both sides to this beautiful tropical island. The views and thoughts from the tourists visiting their place in paradise and through the eyes of the local Bajans, poor and jobless and living in ramshackle houses, in an often violent and brutal environment.
This is a story featuring three women. Wilma, who relates the cautionary tale of the one-armed sister to Lala, her granddaughter. Lala, still hoping for a decent life, knowing she’s married the wrong man and after loosing her newborn baby in the most tragic of circumstances. And Mira Whalen, trying to stay alive after her husband Peter is killed in a bungled robbery at their villa, knowing she won’t be able to tell him how much she loved him after all.
This story is incredibly powerful and at times exceedingly hard to read. The author hasn’t held anything back when it comes to the horrors of domestic violence and sexual assault. The thoughts of the victims are intense and emotional and because the narrative is so convincing it’s pretty easy to really get in their troubled heads alongside their true feelings.
The story unfolds in a multitude of the characters timelines, following their younger years through to the current time. The ending tied up nicely the three stories and along with Adan and Tone, the two central male protagonists, I felt the climax was engaging and thrilling.
If like me you enjoyed reading “My Sister the Serial Killer”, you should enjoy this too. Cherie Jones is a very talented author, that I will follow in the future with any further novels and I wish her every success with this strong and compassionate tale of women, who live to fight and survive male violence.
Profile Image for Basic B's Guide.
966 reviews302 followers
February 11, 2021
Trigger heavy for domestic abuse this felt like it was trauma after trauma. I went into this one with high expectations and the writing is stunning in this debut but my heart just hurts. Having listened to the author on GMAs Instagram tell us 3 reasons to read her book I felt like I was unprepared for the darkness.

The audiobook narration was haunting and intoxicating. Just guard your hearts and make sure you’re in the right headspace for this story.
Profile Image for Wendy.
1,612 reviews554 followers
June 29, 2021
How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House is a compelling debut novel by Cherie Jones.
The novel opens with a cautionary tale, told by Wilma to her granddaughter Lala, about what happens to girls who disobey their mothers and can't avoid temptation.
Set in a small fictional town in Barbados where the wealthy come to vacation and are served by the natives of the island. Lala lives on the beach with her husband and braids the hair of tourists. Her husband is a thief. It begins with a burglary gone wrong which sets off a terrible chain of events.
This is a story of the locals; their ongoing issues with race, class, hardship, multigenerational abuse and finally isolation from love.
Many difficult moments, some incredibly heartbreaking scenes, but I liked seeing Lala's story given a voice.

Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Collins Canada for an arc of this novel in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Cheri.
1,712 reviews2,239 followers
June 25, 2021
4.5 Stars

Set in the Caribbean, Cherie Jones debut begins soon after Wilma’s teenage granddaughter, Lala, returns home to be chastised for returning so late, saying ’Curiosity kill the cat...don’t make yourself stupid like the one-arm sister.’ Lala retorts with ’Well, I bet it not so bad having one arm...She can still do things like everybody else, she can still get a husband, and some children and a house.’ Her grandmother, Wilma, replies ’Stupid girl...how she gonna sweep it.’ Lala thinks, and acts, as though she is wiser about the ways of the world than her, and her grandmother can’t always be watching. Five years later, 18 years old and pregnant and seemingly in labor, she interrupts a shooting during a robbery when she rings the doorbell. Adan, soon-to-be-father of the yet-to-be-born infant is the shooter, and while he blames the shooting on the man he has just shot, he is angry with her for what he knows will follow.

Their life together is not the fairy tale she’d hoped for, perhaps overlooking that he is no longer who she thought he was - if he ever was - when she first met him riding a unicycle at the fair years before. He is controlling her and her life, forcing her to quit her work, braiding hair on the beach mostly for tourists, and he steals what money she has.

There’s a cast of ‘extras’ throughout this story that add to the story, but this story centers on Lala. A story of violence both in her marriage, as well as beyond. The rich tourists that frequent this beach, the token gigolo, a widow, the detective, and Mira, a former prostitute now sweetly ensconced in a new life with a life of travel, friends and homes both here and in England.

Despite the violence in this story that is more alluded to than descriptive, this is a story about more than just the act of violence, it’s about the repeated trauma and the ways it affects each generation through the years for those that can’t seem to escape the cycle.

What keeps it from being overwhelmingly sad or disturbing, and why I kept reading, is the writing - how this story is shared.

The beach stinks of stewing moss, sargassum seaweed and the putrefying guts of beached fishes, rotting in the warming air...the water remains hungover after a night of reckless abandon and has vomited on the sand before seeking to sleep it off.’

’This is why Martha Mason is blinded by tears as she walks the wrong way down the gently curving driveway of Baxter’s Plantation at seven in the morning, a driveway fringed by cabbage palms that legends say still hang heavy with the souls of the slaves who had been drenched in cane juice and tied there to be tortured by the stings of red ants.’

An engrossing, sad and haunting tale shared through some vividly descriptive, and often disturbing, prose.

Please check out Debbie’s review, which prompted me to read this:

Many thanks to the Public Library system, and the many Librarians that manage, organize and keep it running, for the loan of this book!
Profile Image for Monica **can't read fast enough**.
1,030 reviews330 followers
February 2, 2021
I was fortunate and received an ARC of How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones and I am so happy to have been able to read this debut early. Jones has created complex characters facing hardships, abuses, and obstacles in a way that is heart wrenching. How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House begins with events that are hard to read and immediately pulls you into the center of an event that sets the tone for the entire book. The writing is beautiful while telling stories that are disturbing. I still find myself thinking about these characters, especially Lala. This isn't a story that I simply enjoyed and moved on from, this will linger with me for a long time. There is a lot of trauma experienced in this book if you need that warning before going in, it is disturbing and uncomfortable to read at times, but essential to what Cherie Jones gives her readers. I don't give a ton of direct book recommendations to people other than saying what I enjoy for myself, but this is one that I will be throwing out whenever asked for a recommendation. I originally thought that I would give this four stars because of the fairly quick ending, but when I read something that keeps me thinking about it for weeks after, I have to say it's a five star read for me and I will undoubtedly be rereading it in the future. I highly recommend picking up a copy and supporting this talented author.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Where you can find me:
•(♥).•*Monlatable Book Reviews*•.(♥)•
Twitter: @monicaisreading
Instagram: @readermonica
Goodreads Group: The Black Bookcase
Profile Image for Erin.
2,886 reviews488 followers
February 14, 2021
Thanks to Netgalley and Little, Brown &Company for an egalley in exchange for an honest review.

This novel set in Barbados tackles themes of poverty, domestic abuse, drug trafficking and the relationships between mothers and daughters. Admittedly, it took me a while to become comfortable with the multi-character narrative but I did pick up the rhythm eventually. In the end, I gave this 3 stars.

Publication Date 02/02/21
Goodreads Review 14/02/21
Profile Image for Emily Coffee and Commentary.
329 reviews93 followers
December 16, 2022
A devastatingly powerful novel on abuse, misogyny, and trauma, and the strength and hope women find to protect themselves. Authentic in its brutality and examination of class, race, and gender, this novel is a beacon of defiance and solidarity to all of those who have been crushed under oppression, trapped by circumstances, and imprisoned by the greed and malice of men. This is also a novel of breaking cycles, of holding heads high, of sprouting wings and going to a better place. A fierce and unapologetically real novel that will break your heart and fuel your hopes all at once.
Profile Image for Carmel Hanes.
Author 1 book127 followers
September 17, 2021
First warning--this is not an easy book to read, with its relentless focus on tragic events (tread carefully if you are triggered by violence and abuse).

Second warning--this prose does not roll off the tongue or slip easily through the synapses. Between the style employed and the dialect reflective of the local Bajans, it requires a bit of focus, and it can seem a bit repetitive (by design). For me it was all worth the effort.

I was entranced by this book. By the way it created a vivid sense of place, by the ominous atmosphere it created--that sense of dread building, by the gradual understanding provided by shifts in POV and time/history of the characters. While that can be disorienting, I found it easy enough to follow and enriched my view of character motivation and the demons buried within them. Some might find it a clunky device, like inserting old letters into a narrative, but within the context of the story, I was able to roll with it, as it answered questions forming in my mind.

Within the human eddy of rich/poor, local/tourist, man/woman, white/black, love/hate, hope/despair, choice/fate, loyalty/betrayal, a dangerous current connects four people--man, wife, friend, neighbor, flinging debris as the story spins violently. I've read many accounts of violence and abuse in books, but I found the language used and the focus of the words to be unique and mesmerizing. In the movie 'Silence of the Lambs', Hannibal Lector is all the more terrifying because of his minimal movement, his cunning controlled readiness to strike. Jones' scene descriptions create this same sense of foreboding, of danger, of being on the edge of all-hell-is-about-to-break-loose. And when it does, somehow you feel the horror of it all without feeling bludgeoned by it, which is no small feat.

"In those tunnels, you understand that you do not learn to love a man, because for the right man there is no need for the learning, the love is the most natural thing in the world. You understand that if you must learn to love a man, he is probably not the man you should be loving."

"He is staring at his friend, grown into a giant before him, he is listening to a confession released in a roar. He understands that Tone is not sorry, Tone is scornful. And his scorn is the worst insult of all."

I was drawn to this title and cover and, despite the triggers, would describe this story as agonizingly stunning. Stunningly told, agonizing in content; all the more so because I believe it mirrors the lives of many. It made me think of all the women I know, or know of, who have experienced disappointment, danger, and actual harm at the hands of those they loved or counted on. I look forward to the day we no longer have this kind of story to tell.
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