How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House is a debut novel 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.
Firstly thank you to Antonia at Headline for sending me a proof copy of this book. A stunning debut and an incredible read to start 2021 with a bang.
Highly original, set in Barbados this stark novel shows us the hard lives lived behind the glamour the tourist agenda offers of Barbados. Written from multiple perspectives and over several time periods, this character driven novel is the story of Lala a local black girl, born into poverty and violence in a place where being female is at best tough and in her family, actually dangerous. Married to Adan, a handsome criminal who, along with her pregnancy offered her a route out, but into something much worse?
Central also to the story is Mira Whalton a local white woman who married a rich man, based now in London but with a holiday villa on Baxter Beach, Barbados. Her husband is killed in a burglary and Mira is traumatised and afraid of what she has witnessed.
And Tone, my favourite character, on the surface he is a happy, go lucky rasta, living life on the beach and ‘servicing’ rich female tourists by night. His story was terribly sad, told very well and offering insight into the circumstances that lead boys and young men into crime.
These four characters lives are woven together in this novel highlighting the gap between rich and poor in Barbados, the underbelly of violence driven by poverty and the limiting choices of women on the island. This is hard hitting and visceral and while not a happy story it is gripping and revealing, detailing what we know and offering an insight of race, gender and poverty. Set in the Caribbean, an idyllic location but in truth a place where little is known about life there, the first book I have read set in Barbados. A brilliant read with lots of strands including death and murder, domestic violence, love and relationships, poverty and gender. Highly recommended by me.
About the Author
Cherie Jones is a lawyer based in Barbados. She won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 1999. She then studied Creative Writing at Sheffield Hallam in 2015, where she won both the Archie Markham Award and the A.M Heath Prize. In 2015 she was also awarded a full fellowship from the Vermont Studio Centre. A collection of inter-connected stories set in a different small community in Barbados won the third prize in the Frank Collymore Endowment Awards in 2016.