Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson, 4 Stars

We can’t choose what we inherit. But can we choose who we become?

In present-day California, Eleanor Bennett’s death leaves behind a puzzling inheritance for her two children, Byron and Benny: a traditional Caribbean black cake, made from a family recipe with a long history, and a voice recording. In her message, Eleanor shares a tumultuous story about a headstrong young swimmer who escapes her island home under suspicion of murder. The heartbreaking tale Eleanor unfolds, the secrets she still holds back, and the mystery of a long-lost child, challenge everything the siblings thought they knew about their lineage, and themselves.

Can Byron and Benny reclaim their once-close relationship, piece together Eleanor’s true history, and fulfill her final request to “share the black cake when the time is right”? Will their mother’s revelations bring them back together or leave them feeling more lost than ever?

Charmaine Wilkerson’s debut novel is a story of how the inheritance of betrayals, secrets, memories, and even names, can shape relationships and history. Deeply evocative and beautifully written, Black Cake is an extraordinary journey through the life of a family changed forever by the choices of its matriarch.

Praise for Black Cake

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS’ CHOICE • READ WITH JENNA BOOK CLUB PICK AS FEATURED ON TODAY • In this moving debut novel, two estranged siblings deal with their mother’s death and her hidden past—a journey of discovery that takes them from the Caribbean to London to California and ends with her famous black cake.

“At turns delightfully juicy and then stunningly wise, Black Cake is a winner.”—Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones & The Six

ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2022—Glamour, Bustle, Marie Claire, Essence, Parade, Business Insider, Town & Country, Vulture, PopSugar, W magazine, BookPage

In development as a Hulu original series produced by Marissa Jo Cerar, Oprah Winfrey (Harpo Films), and Kapital Entertainment

My Review:

Byron and Benny have returned home to their mother’s house following her death. Well, Byron has been there taking care of his ailing mom, but Benny hasn’t been home in a long time. In fact, she wasn’t even present at her father’s funeral years before. Unlike Byron, she doesn’t have a fancy degree and job. In fact, she barely has a job. Her life has definitely been a disappointment and she stayed away because she didn’t want to see that reflected in her family’s eyes.

Still, with her mother gone, she knows she has to come back and close that chapter of her life. But her absence has gone very noticed by her brother and it’s made all the final rites very complicated. Add to that the story their lawyer presents to them, narrated by their mother. Apparently, she has another child that no one ever knew about.

The story of Byron and Benny is interesting and incredibly well-written, but where this book really shines is in the backstory. We meet young Covey, who lives with her single father in the West Indies. We meet her best friend Bunny, her object of affection, and of course there is Little Man, her betrothed.

After a horrifying wedding day, Covey has no choice but to flee the island she calls home and start over with nothing. Her story is epic and one for the ages. Her journey from the West Indies to her home in California has been a long and winding one. And the one thing that she kept her whole life as a reminder of where she came from, was that one black cake recipe that she enjoys every anniversary.

Black Cake is being developed as a mini-series for Hulu and I can’t wait to see this one come to life on the small screen. Special thanks to Netgalley and Ballantine Books for an advanced e-galley in exchange for my honest review. This one is out now. Get your copy!


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