Publisher: Tinder Press
Publication Date: 21st January 2021
I was drawn to this book initially by the intriguing title but after reading the blurb and discovering How The One Armed Sister Sweeps Her House tells the multigenerational tale of mother’s and their relationships with their daughters I was drawn in even further.
The book is set in a beach town in Barbados and opens with Wilma, a grandmother, telling her teenage granddaughter Lala the cautionary tale of the one armed sister. This tale serves as a warning to young girls who let curiosity get the better of them and who defy warnings.
We then move forward in time a handful of years and find Lala, now a beach hair-braider for the tourists, married to Adan and heavily pregnant. In the early hours of the morning Lala goes into premature labour and sets out in search of Adan who has left her alone to go and do a ‘job’.
She eventually finds him exiting one of the large beach front houses owned by the wealthy. She asks no questions and goes on to give birth to a daughter of her own. When it becomes clear that a wealthy white businessman has been murdered, Lala has to protect her husband.
Lala’s marriage has its foundations in violence. Adan has a fierce temper and Lala has suffered greatly at his hands. When their taut and fractured relationship is the catalyst for a hugely devastating event, Lala’s life spins further out of control.
We also hear from Mira Whalen, the wife of the murdered businessman. Mira’s life has been destroyed by her husband Peter’s violent death and she no longer feels safe in their beachfront home.
We go on to learn about Lala’s dead mother Esme and the violence she suffered at the hands of men, in particular her own father, Wilma’s husband, Carson. Carson rapes his daughter Esme and Wilma essentially does little else to protect her daughter other than make her sleep in a locked shed to try and keep Carson away.
There are generations of women abused and hurt by men. Violence which is quite often turned a blind eye to and taken as being just how it is. Women keep their mouths shut and put up with their husbands deplorable behaviour. This is also a story of how women and mothers let their own children down by pandering to the needs of the men in their lives and neglecting their own flesh and blood.
This book is packed with characters even though Lala is our main protagonist. There are various peripheral characters who have small sections of narrative but you can feel their personalities jumping right off the page in their few short paragraphs. We have The Queen Of Sheba, a prostitute working the beachfront, looking for business with tourists. She is a feisty and bold woman who has a tricky relationship with the local detective Beckles.
There’s also Rosa, Mira Whalen’s maid who is a force to be reckoned with. A woman who takes control and looks after not only Mira, but Mira’s step children in the wake of their fathers death. A powerhouse of a woman who keeps the household together in the toughest of times.
The pacing of this book is super fast with lots going on. It jumps back and forth in time but remains mainly in the 70’s and 80’s. The various changes in narrative move the story on at quite a pace and initially I was a little worried that I wouldn’t keep a handle on who was who and how they were related but this was not the case. Each character is distinctive enough to stand on their own.
It’s a very tough read at times and I must give trigger warnings for rape, domestic violence, miscarriage, and infant loss. Whilst it remains difficult to watch these women struggle through the most horrific times, and witness their almost stoic acceptance of their lot, they do not come across as victims. There is such strength in these women. They may have to dig deep to access this strength within themselves but it is most definitely there in spades.
I flew through this book super fast and was totally absorbed. I would thoroughly recommend it.
Thank you as always to the publisher for my review copy.
See you all soon.
Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx