Second Tuesday Book Club will meet in person from 7 to 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday, April 11, in the program room at Schimelpfenig Library for a conversation about Charmaine Wilkerson’s first novel, Black Cake. As usual, we will observe social distancing, but with face coverings optional. Please email Cathe Spencer at email@example.com if you have questions or comments. See you at Schimelpfenig Library in April!
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
“B and B, my children. Please forgive me for not telling you any of this before. Things were different when I was your age. Things were different for women, especially if you were from the islands. But I’m running out of time and I can’t go without letting you know how all of this happened…“
This poignant first novel tells the story of Byron and Benny, an estranged brother and sister who haven’t spoken in years. A recording left by their mother after her death reveals shocking secrets from the parents they thought they knew, and connects them also to the famously delicious Caribbean ‘black cake’ that is their mother’s last gift to them.
Chosen by Jenna Bush Hager for her Read with Jenna book club in 2022, Black Cake will also become a Hulu drama series, executive-produced by Harpo Films, and starring Mia Isaac and Adrienne Warren.
Black Cake received starred reviews in both Library Journal and Publishers Weekly, and was highly recommended as “a shining family drama” and as an “engrossing, highly accomplished effort from a talented new writer.”
Writing in the Washington Post, reviewer Keishel Williams calls the novel “delectable” and adds, “Wilkerson’s scenes unfold as quick-paced vignettes, immersing readers into the minds and environments of the characters. It takes us on a journey that forces us to look at how both chance encounters and historical events alter a family. The effects ripple out for generations, and the novel allows for a full reflection on how one’s self-identity can change in an instant.”
Alice Cary of BookPage notes, “Readers will quickly find themselves immersed in a mysterious, gripping journey, one that unfolds in brief but bountiful chapters and even includes a suspected murder … Black Cake marks the launch of a writer to watch, one who masterfully plumbs the unexpected depths of the human heart.”
Charmaine Wilkerson grew up in New York and Jamaica and is now based in Rome, where the photo at left was taken at John Cabot University. She holds degrees from Barnard College and Stanford University and has worked as a journalist. Black Cake began as a series of flash fiction pieces, written separately, which she eventually developed into the novel.
Last year, Ms. Wilkerson wrote an essay on black cake, and its meaning for her and her family–read it at this link. In it, she notes, “The recipe includes instructions for making a rum-soaked fruitcake, or black cake, as many Caribbeans would call it. When a younger relative texted me to ask for the recipe, it started me thinking about inheritance and how we choose to keep some things closer to our hearts than others—especially in a multicultural family like mine. Sharing a family recipe can carry the same weight as sharing a piece of heirloom jewelry or an ancestral home. Especially if a recipe, a language all its own, is all a person has left to give.“