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.
Thank you to Antonia Whitton for my invitation to the Blog Tour and for my copy of the book in return for a fair and honest review.
This is one of those books that is going to be really difficult to get across the complexity and the story of these women in a review, but I will try. From the outset there is an air of brutality with Wilma the Grandmother telling Lala the story of the One-Armed Sister she does this to instill fear into Lala for going out at night on her own.
Lala questions the moral of this story and rather than be scared as Wilma hoped she looks for another meaning. The story then jumps to 5 years later where Lala is pregnant and after experiencing pain she goes off to look for Adan her partner who has gone on a job. When she finds him she knows that something bad has happened but she would never have thought how bad, she knows he is thief and she knows he can be violent.
Lala gives birth to her baby and there are several themes in the book that people may find triggering, rape, domestic violence, incest, infant loss. Lala is young and naive and she thinks that the baby will help them. Adan invites over his friend Tone and events take a tragic turn.
The story then looks at Mira, the wife of the man that Adan kills and how she met her husband Peter Whalen again. There is a background to Mira and I really enjoyed reading about her and her mother Martha. Mira is the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy man from Barbados who gives Martha a job as his secretary and ends up having a child with him Mira. Mira does find love and although they were not able to have children of their own she is Stepmother to Beth and Sam.
The characters are so multifaceted and intertwined, when Mira comes across the baby being found on the beach I had to have a a little break as it was so raw and emotional. Poor Lala, I really felt her pain as a mother, of total devastation. Wilma hears about the tragedy and comes to Lala and we hear her story, this is again uncomfortable and tell another story of hardship and relationships.
This is an amazing debut so many threads and all of the women have a really rough ride the contrast between the rich and the poor on Baxter Beach is terrifying and eye opening. As I said at the beginning it is brutal, honest, and I am so very pleased that I have read it and will be recommending.
About the author
Cherie S.A. Jones was born in 1974. She received a LL.B degree from the University of the West Indies, Barbados, in 1995, a Legal Education Certificate from the Hugh Wooding Law School, St. Augustine, Trinidad in 1997 and was admitted to the Bar in Barbados in October 1997. Cherie won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 1999. She won both the Archie Markham Award and the A.M. Heath Prize at Sheffield Hallam in the UK. A collection of interconnected stories set in a different small community in Barbados won a third prize at the Frank Collymore Endowment Awards in 2016. She still works as a lawyer, in addition to her writing.