Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson


I started listening to this one on audiobook, and I didn’t care for it. Even though the narrator was fantastic, I couldn’t follow the storyline in this format. 

A paperback copy of Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson on a wooden coffee table at a coffee shop.
Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson

I was disappointed because I’d heard so many great things about this intergenerational family saga. When I saw the book on a “buy one, get one 50% off’ table at Barnes and Noble, I decided to give it another chance. I’m so glad I did!

Paperback was the correct format for me. Reading a physical copy of Charmaine Wilkerson’s debut novel was the best way to connect with the large cast of characters and savor the journey of discovering how all the different storylines would come together. 

The beautifully written book opens with estranged siblings Byron and Benedetta Bennett reluctantly meeting after the death of their mother, Eleanor, to hear her final wishes. She leaves them an hour-long recording and a frozen Black Cake to eat together “when the time is right.” 

Through the recording, we learn, along with Byron and Benny, about secrets that make them question everything they thought they knew about their parents, especially their mother, and themselves. I appreciated the book’s themes of survival, forgiveness, and second chances. 

Throughout the book, several events and misunderstandings cause deep rifts in the Bennett family. While these scenes were entirely believable, especially for readers with strong-willed family members, there were more than a couple of moments in the book where I wanted to shake the stubbornness out of some of the characters.

Black Cake was like an extended family dinner featuring a table full of treasured recipes and stories connecting a diverse group of people through their best and worst moments across different times and continents. It required a lot of patience but provided a memorable experience I didn’t want to end.

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