During World War II, my father served in the Navy on the Island of Trinidad. I love to see the photos of he and his buddies in the Navy band as they lived in the tropical paradise surrounded by nature.
Black Cake, a debut novel by Charmaine Wilkerson, tells the story of Eleanor Bennett — called Covey — the child of Chinese immigrants to Trinidad. The story begins following the woman’s death. In her will, she leaves her two children, Bennie and Byron, her recipe for Black Cake, and a recording made by her in which she tells her children the truth of her life.
Covey is abandoned by her mother as a small child and left to be brought up by her father. Unfortunately, he is addicted to alcohol and gambling, and Covey is left to fend for herself much of the time, with the help of family friends.
When Covey is still a young girl, Covey’s father pays off his gambling debt to a very bad man named Lin by arranging a marriage between him and Covey. She is desperate to escape that fate, but has little control over what happens in her life. However, during the reception, Lin dies from food poisoning. Knowing she will be blamed, Covey escapes with the help of the family’s housekeeper, and runs away to England.
In England, Covey begins a new life with a new name and a new made-up history. She lives in constant fear that someone from her island home will recognize her and she will be forced back to Trinidad to live her life.
Black cake is a type of dense cake made from dried fruit and rum. It is typically made in the Caribbean Islands, and because of the time it takes for the fruit to soak up the rum, it is made primarily on special occasions, such as Christmas or birthdays.
In the book Black Cake, the cake becomes symbolic of the celebration of life that Covey was able to enjoy despite her tough background. Despite all of the difficulties she faced — abandonment, rape, loss of love, reinventing herself — she rises to the occasion with joy and determination.
By listening to their mother’s voice, her two adult children find joy in one another and learn things about their mother that they never would have imagined.
I am a big fan of this book.