Sunday, 24 January 2021

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones
Published by Tinder Press on the 21st January 2021.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Baxter's Beach, Barbados, Lala's grandmother Wilma tells the story of the one-armed sister, a cautionary tale about what happens to girls who disobey their mothers. 

For Wilma, it's the story of a wilful adventurer, who ignores the warnings of those around her, and suffers as a result.

When Lala grows up, she sees it offers hope - of life after losing a baby in the most terrible of circumstances and marrying the wrong man.

And Mira Whalen? It's about keeping alive, trying to make sense of the fact that her husband has been murdered, and she didn't get the chance to tell him that she loved him after all.

HOW THE ONE-ARMED SISTER SWEEPS HER HOUSE is the powerful, intense story of three marriages, and of a beautiful island paradise where, beyond the white sand beaches and the wealthy tourists, lies poverty, menacing violence and the story of the sacrifices some women make to survive.

I already had two strong contenders for my January Book of the Month, but then I read How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House and was absolutely blown away. This Barbados-set novel is unflinching in its grim portrayal of intersecting lives in a Paradise that is beset more by horror than bliss. The story begins with the recounting of a folktale of two sisters - one good and obedient, the other determined to go her own way. Of course, the own-way sister is the one who must be maimed as her punishment for being so bold, but, as Cherie Jones magnificently then shows us, her Barbados women really had no chance, regardless of which path they chose.

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House is a hard-hitting, shocking read. I was gripped from start to finish, but did occasionally find myself recoiling from violence on the page - scenes made all the more horrifying by their matter-of-fact acceptance on the part of the characters concerned. The dual faces of stunningly beautiful Baxter's Beach reminded me of reading A Small Place, Jamaica Kincaid's powerful polemic about Antigua, a similarly former-British island 500 kilometres from Barbados. Rich white people pay to only see the beauty, even their beachfront houses only face out to sea rather than into town and they buy the most attractive local people by the night. Behind the facades however lies a poverty-stricken society with seemingly no hope of escape from destructive patterns that repeat through each generation. This is a grim read, but I couldn't look away and even finished the book feeling somewhat breathless. As though I hadn't just read Jones' words, but lived this story alongside Lala, Adan, Wilma, Mira and Tone. An incredible novel.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Cherie Jones / Contemporary fiction / Books from Barbados


  1. Your reference to a small place has got me adding this book to my tbr list straight away! It sounds like it was quite a powerful book and while horrific at times, so raw and truthful that you can't help but be engrossed. And I haven't read something set in Barbados yet!

    1. This story is so powerful and wonderfully written. I think you'll love it.