How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House is an unflinching debut by attorney and author Cherie Jones.
In writing this novel, Jones draws from her personal experience of being a resident of Barbados, as well as a survivor of Gender-Based Violence(GBV). She writes the subject of GBV with context and empathy.
Jones’ writing is gripping, melodic, and poetic. It kept me turning the pages, despite the horrific nature of the content. Reading this book was a beautiful, and heart wrenching experience at the same time.
The setting is in Baxter Beach, a fictional Caribbean resort in Barbados. The year is 1984 and almost two decades after independence.
We experience how the lives of impoverished locals collide with those of the affluent tourists, to everyone’s detriment.
The story centers around the life of Lala, her husband, family, friends, and community. Basically how Lala navigates life in an anti-women environment that is governed by patriarchy. She is 18, pregnant, a runaway, and living with an abusive husband whom her grandmother called a ‘louse’.
Jones paints an environment where the perpetrators of GBV are themselves victims of toxic masculinity, and socioeconomic status. The delivery is carried out without condoning or absolving the offenders from their acts. We experience how the elderly women enabled GBV by preaching submissiveness, and by victim-blaming the younger women. The scribe understands why women sometimes do not or cannot leave, and that when they do decide to leave, there is no turning back.
The story is related from multiple points of views. The flawed characters are fully developed, with back stories that help them retain their human aspect, and to contextualize the why of their behavior.
This novel is not for the faint-hearted. It is graphic, brutal, heart breaking, raw, and evocative. The happy and tender scenes are far and in between.
A necessary book which speaks to an ugly global pandemic that is GBV.