A Cupboard Full of Coats
review copy provided by Amistad for TLC Book Tours
Description from Goodreads:
Shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize
A "Kirkus" Best Book of the Year
Plagued by guilt, paralyzed by shame, Jinx has spent the years since her mother's death alone, estranged from her husband, withdrawn from her son, and entrenched in a childhood home filled with fierce and violent memories. When Lemon, an old family friend, appears unbidden at the door, he seduces Jinx with a heady mix of powerful storytelling and tender care. What follows is a tense and passionate weekend, as the two join forces to unravel the tragedy that binds them. Jinx has long carried the burden of the past; now, she must relive her mother's last days, confront her grief head-on, and speak the truth as only she knows it.
Expertly woven and perfectly paced, "A Cupboard Full of Coats" is both a heartbreaking family drama and a riveting mystery, with a cast of characters who linger in the mind and the heart long after the last page has been turned.
I am so torn over this book. The writing is absolutely beautiful and the entire book is so wonderfully well written. I knew from the very first sentence - which makes up the entire first paragraph of the book - that I was going to love the writing:
It was early spring when Lemon arrived, while the crocuses in the front garden were flowering and before the daffodil buds had opened, the Friday evening of a long, slow February, and I had expected when I opened the front door to find an energy salesperson standing there, or a charity worker selling badges, or any one of a thousand random insignificant people whose existence meant nothing to me or to my world.
The story unfolds so very gradually and the reader is able to put the pieces together as the characters of Jinx and Lemon are slowly revealed through this weekend they spend together. Both Jinx and Lemon feel that they are to blame for the death of - the murder of - Jinx's mother. Both have their story - the events as they each saw them. Both have wounds that have been buried but never forgotten, wounds that have festered and prevented them from moving on. All of this is so slowly and painstakingly revealed through their discussions and storytelling.
The events that are described are painful, sad, upsetting even, but so beautifully told. It was impossible to stop reading even though so much that happened made me angry and sad. Jinx feels betrayed and hurt and as a consequence of this short period of time in her past, she is unable to feel close to or relate to her own son. The tragedy of her mother's murder has haunted her throughout her life and threatens to derail her life completely. Although she doesn't know it yet, this weekend will be a turning point for the rest of her life.
One of the interesting aspects of the book is how much emphasis and importance was placed on food - the preparing, cooking, serving and eating of a meal. I don't know if it is a passion of the author's or if it is important within the culture Jinx grew up in, but the descriptions were amazing. One example:
I thought I had been creative about food in the past, ensuring a balance of texture and colour and nutrients, attractive to the eye, contrasting on the palate, on inspection, perfect in every respect. But everything he had cooked since his arrival had been divine. I could not recall any dish I had ever prepared that had in impact like this, that was such a dizzying, seductive, overwhelming experience that the more I ate, the more I wanted.
Even though the story is heart-breaking and disturbing on some levels, it does end with a surprising level of hope for Jinx's future. I'm not crazy about the nature of Lemon and Jinx's relationship from her youth, but this weekend they spend together as adults obviously enables her to work through the major emotional issues she has been harboring over the years.
I really loved this book despite some of the disturbing and harmful things that happen within the story. This book really stayed with me. I would find myself thinking about certain aspects of it at the oddest times. A Cupboard Full of Coats may be Yvvette Edwards' first novel, but I fully expect to read more of her writing in the future. She has such a way with the written word! You must read it for yourself.