First novel explores the trans-generational fallout from an abusive relationship.
Edwards vividly re-creates the lifestyles, cuisine and dialect of Caribbean immigrants living in London’s East End. Her narrator is Jinx, whose present life has been tainted by her mother’s violent death 14 years earlier, for which she blames herself. When an old family friend, Lemon, appears out of nowhere, Jinx is forced to relive the events leading up to the tragedy. Her mother’s lover, Berris, the man who stabbed her, grew up with Lemon as a street urchin on the tiny West Indies island of Montserrat. The two men are lifelong friends, but also rivals. Berris spoiled Lemon’s marriage by impugning his wife’s chastity and the paternity of his son. Meanwhile, Jinx reflects on how her own marriage suffered from her traumatic adolescence. Having relinquished custody of her son to her ex-husband, she has no maternal feelings toward the child. Her alienation is such that she only feels comfortable around the dead people she makes up in her job as a freelance embalmer. Now, long estranged from his son, his wife dead of cancer, Lemon has come to confess something to Jinx. As Jinx and Lemon tiptoe around each other, various facts emerge. Jinx was 16 when Berris appeared. Her formerly tranquil life with her mother, a widow, is shattered by her mother’s total absorption in Berris. When he moves in, a pattern begins: He hits Jinx’s mother (we don’t learn her name until the end) then, to atone, buys her progressively more luxurious coats, until she has a closetful. Jinx loses her virginity to the much older Lemon, but is stung by his apparent crush on her mother. Her resentment explodes into rage after Berris beats her, and her mother ignores her screams. As both Lemon and Jinx cautiously summon long suppressed memories of the night of the murder, the novel spirals to a satisfying if not entirely surprising climax.
An impressive debut, particularly notable for its pellucid prose.