I rarely post trigger/content warnings, and I try to avoid reviews with them – that’s my reading preference. You may prefer them. And that’s perfectly acceptable. That said, Cherie Jones’s How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps her House (Little, Brown & Co., 2021) is one TW/CW after the other: infanticide, incest, rape, child molestation, domestic violence, brutal assaults, animal abuse, murder, addiction, police brutality, abortion, torture, etc. This list really could go on and on. Some things are mentioned in passing, others as flashes of memory, and some in great detail. There are multiple instances of rape, abuse, and domestic violence with victims varying from a prostitute to a young girl to a young boy to adults. The perpetrators also vary – including parents, spouses, police and strangers. This was the rare read that I nearly DNF’d; I didn’t, but I do wish I’d never started it. It was simply too much, too hard, too hopeless. (And the dog dies in this one.)
Despite that, there is no denying Cherie Jones’s talent. The blurb calls to mind Zadie Smith (early Smith is by far my favorite, and I could see echoes of White Teeth in the work), but I was also reminded of Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” – a ready comparison with another Caribbean protagonist. It’s a gritty and bloody heartbreak of a novel that primarily follows LaLa and her abusive husband after the birth of their daughter, Baby, which occurs immediately following the commission of a crime. The island is full of characters – from rich, white men and the former prostitutes they married to young men who sell their bodies to the tourists, to the women who plait hair on the beach for US dollars; but the island is also its own living and breathing character, and it’ll chew you up and spit you on the beach with the rest of the trash.
It’s well-written and compelling, but this is a “not for me” novel.