I will be honest, I only got Black Cake from BOTM because it was the only Book of the Year in 2022 that I hadn’t already read, and you get a free one every year. I didn’t want to say no to a free book. And I’m glad I got it! This was highly readable and emotionally affecting, even if it wasn’t always able to hold my attention perfectly (lots of little breaks for romance novels, fanfic, etc. — I am who I am). And actually, I did really used to enjoy a family saga back in the day, and didn’t realize this was one before I started reading it.
Our main characters are Benny and Byron Bennett, who begin the story learning that their mother Eleanor has left them some very specific instructions in her will, namely that she requires that they listen to a long audiotape she left behind, which begins to tell the story of a young girl named Covey who lived in the Caribbean as a child and loved to swim. The family has been estranged from each other for several years due to various reasons (among them, Benny coming out as bisexual) and it’s Eleanor’s hope that her two children can come to some sort of reconciliation not only with each other, but with her and their father’s memories as well.
The thing about this book is that you can get stories like it all over the place (family secrets, traumatic events concealed, secret babies, murder), but they usually feature white people, and many of them are not as well written as this was (I’m mainly thinking of Kate Morton, whose stuff reads like the epitome of mediocre banality to me). While I was reading this, it really sucked me in and made these characters come to life, and though I wasn’t always reaching for it when I wasn’t reading it, once it was in my hands it was hard to put down.
Highly recommend this one if you were on the fence.