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Set in Barbados in 1984, Cherie Jones’s How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House undulates with ocean-pure, ocean-powerful writing. Telling the poignant stories of Bajan women struggling to survive the actions of abusive men who’ve veered violently off track, it’s an exceptional debut that deftly exposes the inequalities of race and gender that simmer beneath the island’s paradisal veneer.
As a child, Lala’s grandmother guardian told her the cautionary tale of the one-armed sister who disobeyed her elders and ventured into the tunnels near their home at Baxter’s Beach. As a young woman, Lala braids the hair of white tourists who rent luxury beachfront villas while she cares for her baby and lives with her abusive, petty criminal husband Adan. When Adan bungles a burglary, he unleashes a succession of devastating events that results in two women losing the thing most dear to them. As a result, Adan is compelled to flee to his secret hideaway, and so the tunnels of the cautionary tale take on real-world significance.
Demonstrating the deep-rooted extent of patriarchal control and abuse, the narrative slips back in time to tell the stories of Lala’s mother and grandmother. “Of course she did not leave him. What woman leaves a man for something she is likely to suffer at the hands of any other?” - tellingly this excerpt is applicable to all three generations. The author also explores the tangled relationships between these women, and the complexity of mother-daughter bonds, such as when Lala comments, of herself, “despite your best efforts, you are exactly like your mother”. And yet, at the same time, she misses her mother “more than ever”.
Another powerful theme is that of the destructive underbelly of tourism - the fishing villages that “died in the birthing of the big houses, because rich tourists who visit for a few months each year do not wish to suffer the stink of market”, and the men who sell themselves to older white women, such as Tone the gigolo, Lala’s childhood love, who’s much more than he seems. What a novel. What execution. What a writer to watch.
In Baxter's Beach, Barbados, Lala's grandmother Wilma tells the story of the one-armed sister, a cautionary tale about what happens to girls who disobey their mothers.
For Wilma, it's the story of a wilful adventurer, who ignores the warnings of those around her, and suffers as a result.
When Lala grows up, she sees it offers hope - of life after losing a baby in the most terrible of circumstances and marrying the wrong man.
And Mira Whalen? It's about keeping alive, trying to make sense of the fact that her husband has been murdered, and she didn't get the chance to tell him that she loved him after all.
HOW THE ONE-ARMED SISTER SWEEPS HER HOUSE is the powerful, intense story of three marriages, and of a beautiful island paradise where, beyond the white sand beaches and the wealthy tourists, lies poverty, menacing violence and the story of the sacrifices some women make to survive.
Here is a bright new star. Cherie Jones has talent abounding, drawing us with skill, delicacy and glorious style into a vortex of Bajan lives on the edge, clashing across class and colour divides. This is one of the strongest, most assured and heart-wrenching debuts I have ever read - Diana Evans
A gripping thriller, a symphony of voices and a novel of deep empathy - Mark Haddon
Cherie Jones' How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House is an intricately plotted allegory that explores the consequences of believing that you know better than the women who made you and charts the inheritance of trauma that is all too common in Caribbean women's lives. With rare compassion and deft storytelling, Jones renders a narrative that is haunting and unforgettable - Naomi Jackson
A hard-hitting and unflinching novel from a bold new writer who tackles head-on the brutal extremes of patriarchal abuse - Bernadine Evaristo
This book unfolds around the reader like ripples in water, it offers an unflinching vision of what it means to have a body and to fight to protect that body, it demands attention. These are characters' voices I will be hearing for a long time and a book I will be recommending to everyone - Daisy Johnson
Publication date: 21/01/2021
Publisher: Tinder Press an imprint of Headline Publishing Group
|Publication date:||21st January 2021|
|Publisher:||Tinder Press an imprint of Headline Publishing Group|
|Genres:||Book Club Recommendations, Debuts of the Month, Debuts, Literary Fiction, Diverse Voices, Star Books,|
|Collections:||2021 Preview - Exciting New Books on the Horizon, 50+ Beautifully Written Books, 80+ Must-read Novels by Black Writers - Black Lit Matters, 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction - Women’s Words, 31 Unforgettable Books by Caribbean Writers - Book-aneers of the Caribbean,|
|Categories:||Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945),|
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 2016More About Cherie Jones