Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson [4/10]

Black Cake” is an exuberant panorama of tale after tale of tragedy, immigration, love, and secrets. Byron and Benny, either estranged or disconnected from their mother Eleanor, are stunned when after Eleanor’s death in California, her taped message to them unfurls barely creditable revelation after revelation. Ranging over decades and from a Caribbean island to England to America, this is a classic storyline wrought from seemingly neverending character stories of stupefying (to this reader) complexity. The author spills forth scenes of seeming virtuosity but over the course of the novel, the central characters discard all readerly identification, swamped by the multitude of hoary documentary-style biographies. I sense that many readers may enjoy the tapestry of fated lives, revolving around the recipe of the “black cake,” but this reader found Black Cake to be a modestly enjoyable yawn.

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