Wednesday, August 29, 2012

TLC Book Review - A Cupboard Full of Coats

A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvette Edwards
Harper Collins, 2011

Format? oversized paperback

Source: TLC Book Reviews
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of A Cupboard Full of Coats from the publisher via TLC Book Reviews in exchange for a review.  The opinions therein are honest, without bias and my own.

Why?  I can get into a complicated family story any day of the week...and this one is about as complicated as it gets.

Cover/Title? Lately, I've really begun to realize just how much of a cover snob I am :( I'm ashamed of this, but Ialso  understand it.  I'm a visual person...I very seldom post without some kind of visual representation of something going on in my post.  I judge books by their covers all. the. time.  This cover reminds me of Fall, my favorite time of the year and even the flowers (which don't normally get my attention) are clothed in cooler hues.  The mango and ginger hint at the West Indian and Montserattian themes of food, culture and family that are found within.

What Now?

I'm happy to pass this one along to someone else who'd like to experience it.  This is a first novel for Yvvette Edwards, and I will be reading her next.
Just leave your name, email and blog address in the comments and I'll announce a winner 2 weeks from today (Wednesday, Sept. 12) :)

Golden Lines

I had succumbed to a moment of weakness, a desire to confess the unspeakable, had believed that somehow this man could deliver me, as if such a thing was possible, as if life had not already taught me that the only person I could ever truly depend on was me, and I felt as angry with myself as I did with him, that I had been stupid enough to believe that anything good could ever come from bringing history into my home.

I thought about my life, tried to think of a single good thing in it, just the smallest reason to want to live, to care enough either way, and found nothing.
It was like every child in that family had had their parents' genes put into a Coke bottle, shook up, and then a separate burst of spray had been collected to make each of them.  They were as different from each other as a litter of kittens.

Berris wasn't a gradual drip drop of rain, an off-and-on downpour.  It was like on a sunny summer's day there had been a sudden thunderclap, followed by a lightning flash and monsoon rain that poured without break, heavy, depressing, persistent, with no end in sight.

She owned this house and he owned her.  The only thing I needed to get my head around was where exactly I fitted in.

But it wasn't just dislike I felt, it was fear, the kind of fear you experienced passing a digi group of bullies when you were on your own.  His eyes had that same look about them that I'd seen in the eyes of bullies, not just threatening, but smug too, like he knew something that gave him power over anyone who was weaker.  It made me feel afraid.

And anyway, Berris never actually meant to hurt me.  If I'm honest, what happened was more my fault than his.  But I don't want you to worry about this.  It's never gonna happen again...

Most things, all they want is a little gentle handling.

I believed in honesty to a point and no further, as much honesty as a person needed to get to where and what they wanted, enough dishonesty to hide what should be kept private, like Family Business.  Lemon was clearing up his past and his honesty was like bleach.  He had been the Pied Piper, the music man.  He'd set the tempo and they'd danced as he had mixed and changed the rhythm, then sat back to watch them pick up and follow the beat.  And he wanted me to forgive him?  I could not.

He buried his face in the bowl of my collar bone, heaving and snorting, adding his wet distress to the rain on my neck.  My body was stiff as he clasped me tight.  And over and over and over again, he just kept repeating, "I'm sorry."

She let him beat me and I made him kill her.

 Jinx is living in London alone.  As an embalmer, she works better with the dead than with the living, including her own young son and his father, her ex-husband.  Painful memories resurface one day when she opens her front door to a man she's known since she was 16.  Lemon was a friend to her mother's lover, Berris...the man who now is in jail for her violent death.  After his own failed attempt at finding and living a normal life, Lemon has returned to confess everything the secrets of the past; what he doesn't realize is that Jinx too suffers as well from living with her own secrets, secrets that have literally eaten her alive from the inside out.  She is a numb shell of the person she could have/should have become.  Over the course of a few days, Lemon bares his soul and forces Jinx to do the same.

What I Liked

The complications - I kept thinking of Toni Morrison again and again and again as I read this book.  The issues are so complicated and so obviously deeply felt/understood by the author that the reader can sometimes feel left out.  I liked this bc I like a book that makes me think...I don't want it to be an easy read or one that is obvious...this book has no chance of being obvious.

Lemon - I had to struggle to keep up with the story it took him 3 days to tell (he himself called it a "long-winded roundabout")...but I wanted to.

The dialect and vocabulary - to be honest I both liked and disliked this aspect of A Cupboard Full of Coats - the cultural voice adds authenticity to this story...a glimpse into the rich life of a culture other than my own, actually a culture within a culture.  But, I did sometimes feel left out...and especially with Lemon's dialect and choice of words, I had to re-read sections and searched for context clues where many times there actually were none.  I actually used Google searches several times to familiarize myself with words like "digi," "sorrel," "Dunlop plimsolls," "poofter," "jingbang," "cassava," "christophine," "sabaca," and "shebeen."

The coats and their symbolic meaning...I didn't get it at first but when it hit, not an excited, loud "WOW!"...just a quiet introspective "wow"...a quite effective piece of imagery to say the least.

Jinx's son's connection to her mother was another piece of strong vine that holds this story and the Jinx's inability to be a mother to her own child together.  Jinx's lack of maternal feeling toward Red and            was actually unbelievable to me until the story circled back around...and it's not like me to believe actions like these.  Another wow moment.

What I Didn't Like

The ending - things worked out a little too nicely for me...granted there's a lot of story left to be told...but still. These are seriously damaged people who are struggling with very deeply ingrained issues; then within the last few pages, the sun comes up and everything's ok.  Huh?

Berris - duh, he's an could anybody like him?  Except for the woman he's abusing.

Sam - I am still not sure what her significance is to this story...I'll let you know if I figure it out.

Curry - there's a lot of it in this story...and I don't like it :P  Jinx finds comfort in the smells of home and hearth but it was difficult to appreciate her comfort when my own personal aversion is so strong :/

This is one of those stories that unpeels itself in unsystematic ways...questions didn't always get answered when I needed them to and a few times I felt as if I didn't have enough information to figure out what in the world was going on or why Jinx acted the way she did.  I actually found one post-it note about midway through the story where I simply wrote "huh"?

I don't mind switching back and forth in time, but I swear I felt like there was another part to this story, one that began during Jinx's childhood, that I missed completely...there's has to be some connection somewhere with Sam, but I never got it.

Overall Recommendation

If you like family sagas including painful, hard to read sometimes, issues, then you'll like this one.  Don't expect a happy, sunny ending though; if you need everything to work out like a Cinderella story, this isn't your read.  It's quite dark at times, but it's supposed to be.
Other Stops on the TLC Review Tour

Monday, August 20th: M. Denise C.
Tuesday, August 21st: Book Club Classics!
Tuesday, August 28th: BookNAround
Wednesday, August 29th: Peppermint PhD
Thursday, August 30th: The Feminist Texican [Reads]
Tuesday, September 4th: Shall Write
Wednesday, September 5th: Book Dilettante
Thursday, September 6th: My Bookshelf
Monday, September 10th: The Blog of Lit Wits
Wednesday, September 12th: Chaos is a Friend of Mine
Monday, September 17th: A Book Geek


  1. I totally love books about different cultures and dysfunctional families. Sounds perfect!


    1. Dysfunctional is putting it mildly, Julie :p But, I like them too...the cultural variety just makes a story for me as well though :)

  2. No need to enter me, but this may be something that I pick up next year. Dysfunctional families can always be an intriguing subject matter, hopefully the ending isn't too frustrating, with the nicely wrapped bow it ends with!

    1. The ending doesn't solve everything; I just felt like it needed more to get to that particular point. It didn't ruin the book for me at all's still a quality read. I was sitting here just a minute ago thinking about the characters...even though I'm finished with the book :/

  3. Did you just say West Indian and Monserratian? Sign me up!!! I've not read much about Montserrat or its people before, but I am a dedicated Caribbeana fan.

    1. YAY! I just didn't have enough prior knowledge of that region to make it an easy read. I need to know more :)

  4. This sounds like a book I'd find riveting for many reasons (including curry, which I love). I enjoyed reading your honest review. Please enter me in your giveaway. Thanks!

    1. LOL! Isn't it funny about flavors? I know people who absolutely HATE cilantro and it is one of my FAVORITE flavors. On my last trip to San Francisco, my colleagues wanted to eat Indian so I naively said ok thinking there might be something on the menu I would like. Nope. Nada. Everything was spiced with curry...and I can't even stand the smell :/

  5. I'm very visual as well and am a "cover snob". This one is pretty. I am waiting for the audio from the library - I do like dysfunction in a novel. Sorry this was a bit much for you.

    1. I would love to hear this one...bc the person who narrates it should have an exceptional accent!! It's worth a listen to see how well that plays out for the book! :)

  6. I am not crazy about different dialects in the books that I read, so honestly, I might not be interested because of that alone. The story sounds wonderful, but some of the elements that you mention might turn me off. I am sort of looking for happy and light stories right now! :)

    1. This one is not happy, nor is it I wouldn't recommend it for your right now. You are the winner of my 2nd copy of So L.A. though!!! I've misplaced your address though so can you send it to me again? :/

  7. yay for cover snobs! :)

    I'm on the fence about this one -- it sounds very good but I'm not always wild about truly dark family fic -- it can be tough for me to finish.

    1. Audra, you always have the BEST covers on your Mailbox Mondays!!! I get sucked in every week!!! :)
      A Cupboard Full of Coats is dark...and it's a dark that I don't think can ever be fixed. That's how damaged these 2 people are.

  8. The fact that this reminds you of Toni Morrison says A LOT!

    Thanks for being on the tour.

    1. It will definitely be interesting to see what Edwards comes up with next :)

  9. A book cover is important to me too. Someday I hope to get photos of my favorite and make a collage and hang it.

    And I think the names in this book would drive me nuts! Lemon? Jinx?

    1. Such an incredible idea, Jenners...a collage of favorite books covers...sounds like a Pinterest project to me ;)