Jinx has carried the burden of her mother’s murder for fourteen years. Though she was only sixteen years old when the tragedy occurred, she knows that her actions on that evening were the reason her mother was killed. Now thirty years old, she lives a mostly solitary existence in that same home where the murder took place, pushing away the few people she still has connections to. Then one day, an older man from the past arrives at her front door. Both harbor their own secrets, and over the course of the weekend, the truth will finally come out about what happened on the night of the murder.
Jinx is a dark woman who has managed to bury all of her emotions under a layer of anger and detachment. She has a four year old son from a previous relationship, but she is uneasy about motherhood and has a hard time connecting with her young son, who lives with his father. Jinx also does freelance work laying out bodies at funeral homes, fixing the makeup and getting the bodies ready for presentation; she has a wall up because of what happened to her mother, and actively rejects human connection.
When Lemon shows up at her door, memories from the past flood back into Jinx. Lemon, with his slow Caribbean drawl and peaceful presence, brings with him a lightness that she hasn’t felt in years: he dances, sings, and cooks the Caribbean food that her mother cooked. He also evokes a sensuality in Jinx that she thought was long gone. But of course, he’s also appeared for a reason: he also knows something about the murder, and no matter how much Jinx resists, he won’t leave until she knows his secret.
A Cupboard Full of Coats is Yvvette Edwards’ first novel, and impressively, it was longlisted for the Booker Prize. I really enjoyed the book and flew through the second half in one sitting. Edwards’ descriptions are beautiful and evocative — especially when she talks about food — and I thought that her pacing was perfect; she portrays a lot of Jinx’s internal struggles and takes her time to reveal the past, but the book never feels slow.
The only problem I have with the book has nothing to do with content: that cover! While the original cover gives readers a better idea of the tone, the American cover paired with that title looks too…I don’t know, warm? And it’s not. The “cupboard full of coats” indeed refers to an actual cupboard full of expensive coats Jinx’s mother owned, but those coats each symbolized something much more sinister than the cover lets on: her mother was in an abusive relationship, and every time her violent lover would beat her, he’d buy her an expensive coat as an apology.
Cover issues aside, the book itself is an enjoyable read — at least, as “enjoyable” as a book dealing with dark topics like domestic violence, guilt, and loss can be. It’s dramatic and raw, and the emerging theme of redemption and the characters’ distinct Caribbean voices help to the book memorable.
A Cupboard Full of Coats was originally released in 2011 and was longlisted for a 2011 Man Booker Prize. I was released in the United States on July 31, 2012 by Amistad, an imprint of HarperCollins. This book is on tour right now, so check out what other bloggers are saying about it.