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How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House
By Cherie Jones
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In the tradition of Zadie Smith and Marlon James, a brilliant Caribbean writer delivers a powerful story about four people each desperate to escape their legacy of violence in a so-called “paradise.”
In Baxter’s Beach, Barbados, Lala’s grandmother Wilma tells the story of the one-armed sister. It’s a cautionary tale, about what happens to girls who disobey their mothers and go into the Baxter’s Tunnels. When she’s grown, Lala lives on the beach with her husband, Adan, a petty criminal with endless charisma whose thwarted burglary of one of the beach mansions sets off a chain of events with terrible consequences. A gunshot no one was meant to witness. A new mother whose baby is found lifeless on the beach. A woman torn between two worlds and incapacitated by grief. And two men driven into the Tunnels by desperation and greed who attempt a crime that will risk their freedom – and their lives.
How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House is an intimate and visceral portrayal of interconnected lives, across race and class, in a rapidly changing resort town, told by an astonishing new author of literary fiction.
One of 2021’s Most Anticipated New Fiction
The Millions * Lit Hub * O Magazine * Elle.com * Entertainment Weekly * Minneapolis Star-Tribune * Bustle
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12 September 1979
Lala comes home and Wilma is waiting, having returned early from visiting Carson at the hospital. Wilma is still dressed in her going-out clothes, one of the outfits she prefers to be seen in by strangers—a lilac, steam-pleated skirt that falls just below her knees, a pale aquamarine silk blouse tucked into the waist with a broad purple belt, and a navy cloche hat that once belonged to her mother. When Lala walks through the door, Wilma is standing on the stone floor of the kitchen, arms akimbo, eyes wide with relief.
"Where you was, Stella? Is almost 8:30!"
Visiting hours end at six, one of the myriad indignities of hospitalization at Baxter's General—having to bid visitors goodbye and get ready to go to sleep with the birds. But today, Carson has fallen into a type of coma way before bedtime, a deep sleep from which the doctors cannot rouse him. Wilma spends the first visiting hour sitting upright next to his bed, and only when she dozes and falls off the chair and lands with her knees still bent at a right angle can she be persuaded to go home and rest. There is not much anyone can do, say the nurses, as dribble oozes from the corner of Carson's mouth and slimes its way toward the sheets; the doctors are doing tests.
This coma, these tests, are why Wilma is able to take the long walk from Baxter's General back to the Bridge Street Bus Stand at a stroll instead of a run and still manage to secure a place at the front of a long line of commuters. They are why her steam-pleated skirt has escaped the telltale crinkles of the push and shove and crush of the queue in its collective effort to catch the Route 12 going to Baxter's Beach, from which she usually alights around 8:30. This evening Wilma has managed to catch the 7 p.m. instead of the 8 and has therefore been spared the usual visiting-hours crowd from Baxter's General. This evening Wilma has returned home almost an hour early and found that Lala is not there in her bedroom, reading Malory Towers.
"Where you was, Stella? Answer me!"
"My name is Lala."
Lala is, at first, not fazed by the fact that she is already in trouble or that lashes are likely, and her obstinacy makes Wilma's right eye twitch.
"Your name is whatever I say it is!" Wilma yells.
"I went for a walk, Wilma," Lala stammers. "It was dark in the house and I was frighten and I went for a walk."
Wilma does not know whether to believe her—Lala's hair is intact, her dress is not unusually ruffled, she can look her right in the eyes—it is possible that she is telling the truth.
"I say I would come out and meet the bus, but I lose track of time…"
Wilma removes the cloche hat, which she had kept on until Lala walked through the door, just in case her head had to brave the cold wind to try to find her. Wilma sheds her Chinese slippers and sits down. Suddenly she is too tired to share a beating. She is too tired to go to bed. She is thinking about the prospect of Carson dying, at last, and leaving her alone, alone except for Lala. She looks at her granddaughter—the only child of her dead only daughter. This granddaughter has not, up to now, really caused her any trouble. She does her schoolwork so well that her teachers say she can be anything she wants. She says "Yes, ma'am" and "No, ma'am" at the times and on the occasions that Wilma has taught her to. She stays well out of the sight and sound of her grandfather, Carson. What more, Wilma asks herself, can she ask for? The child is not a beauty but, perhaps, thinks Wilma, this will work in her favor. She considers that this is the person who will have to help her in her old age, and so she softens her voice until it is almost pleading.
"I ain't tell you that young girls like you must stay indoors?" Wilma chides, mildly. "I ain't tell you about the things that live in the Baxter's tunnels? You walking 'bout to find out about them yourself?" When Lala doesn't answer, she says, "Let me tell you about a little girl like you that didn't listen to her mother."
Wilma tells the story of the One-Armed Sister:
The village vicar and his wife had two little girls. Such beautiful children you never did see—skin yellow and pretty like peanut milk, hair curly and silky like peau de soie, eyes big and light brown with long, long lashes. But although they both beautiful, only one of them was gifted with good sense—the other one was own-way and like to give the mother mouth. So it just so happen that it had an entrance to the Baxter's tunnels right on the vicarage lawn, at the bottom of the garden. Nobody sure what it doing there but it there nonetheless. The vicar wife have half a mind to get the yard boy to seal it off with stones and cement but is only half a mind and she never actually send the boy into town to buy the bag of cement and the cement blocks and do the job. The vicar's wife tell her little girls about this tunnel, how they mustn't go into it, how it have monsters that live down in there, how any little girls go in there they never come back out. The tunnels is where bad men go when they die, says the mother, men that are too bad to rest easy in their graves down in those tunnels walking about night and day, looking for more badness, harvesting souls for the Devil. The mother tell them, but the little girl with the good sense listen and the one that don't have any get more curious than ever. This sister question her mother, wonder what in the tunnels that so sweet she warning her away from it, because this good-for-nothing girl already developing a taste for things that her mother tell her not to have, this slack-from-she-born, force-ripe sister already thinking that some bad things real sweet and if something so sweet it can't be evil. This sister thinking to herself, It not that dark, it not that spooky, what is the use of a tunnel if you don't get to see where it lead?
Is just this kind of tunnel that this sister decide she must explore, say Wilma, so she ups herself one evening when her mother was taking tea with the doctor wife. It was important matters they was talking, says Wilma, because the vicar's wife was a good mother, not one to leave her children alone for even a few seconds. But a few seconds is all the Devil need. Pretty soon the vicar's wife hear screaming so sharp and piteous it shake the teapot on the table with the tea. The vicar's wife and the doctor's wife run out and see the good sister holding onto the other for dear life and something they can't quite see pulling the stupid one by her other arm back into that tunnel. Well the vicar's wife and the doctor's wife and the yard boy all grab onto the good sister and they pulling her and she pulling the bad sister away from the thing in the tunnel. And, says Wilma, maybe is only because her husband is the vicar and a man of prayer that they get the stupid sister out, but that monster in the tunnel take her arm from her. Sure as day, when they rescue that sister there is a bleeding stump where her arm used to be, that left arm end in a knot just above what used to be her elbow. She survive, of course, says Wilma, the wicked often do, but she have a stump to remind her what stupid get her. Sure enough, the mother get the yard boy to seal up that tunnel quick-quick after that, but the arm already in there. Curiosity kill the cat, says Wilma, don't make yourself stupid like the one-armed sister.
There is something about the story that angers Lala, perhaps the fact that Wilma expects her, at thirteen years old, to believe it.
"And none of them went back to find the arm?" she wonders. "Not even the yard boy?"
"Yard boy know his limitations," says Wilma. "Yard boy no match for a monster."
She has mistaken Lala's silence for the proof of a scaring, just the kind to keep her out of the type of trouble that long walks at night can bring, so she is picking up her hat and her bag and her belt and getting ready to go to her sewing room, where more work is waiting.
"I bet if it was the other way around, if the good sister was the one in the tunnel, the other one would have gone after that arm and found it for her," says Lala. "I bet she would've."
"The good sister not so stupid to go in there in the first place," says Wilma. Her eyes are flashing and she is thinking that maybe she should just have mustered the energy and given Lala a warm dose of licks instead.
"Well I bet it not so bad having one arm," says Lala. "She can still do things like everybody else, she can still get a husband and some children and a house."
"Stupid girl," says Wilma, "how she gonna sweep it?"
20 July 1984
About an hour after Adan leaves her at home alone, Lala stands barefoot in the dark doorway of his house, in a scratchy white nightgown she has stolen from Wilma, assuring herself, despite the obvious, that everything will be okay. The salty air was still when she opened the door, and sweat still beads her face when she slips her feet into Adan's old sneakers and grabs hold of the inner soles with her toes, worrying about her descent to the gray velvet blur of beach so far beneath her. She has been cautioned not to climb or descend the stairs on her own, in her condition, and Adan has been instructed to build a banister to steady her descents to the sand, but they have both ignored the good sense of the fishermen who sometimes help her up the steps with her groceries. The twenty-five cement steps to the ground remain just as treacherous as the day she first climbed them, eighteen months earlier, with a string-bag stretched into the shape of everything she owned. The steps are perhaps more treacherous, she reasons, with a belly the size of a beach ball disrupting her balance, so she leans on the weather-beaten wood of the house on her left and shrinks away from the sheer drop to her right.
Lala holds onto the holes in the wooden side of the house and eases herself down the first few steps, until the splintered wood falls away into nothingness on her left side and there is still the nothingness on her right and several steps remain to be negotiated before she reaches the sand. She pauses, stretches her arms out on either side of herself to maintain her balance, and does not dare to wipe her face when she sweats from the effort, and the hurt and the heat. When Lala's stomach starts to twist in on itself she whimpers for Wilma—whom, even now, she cannot call Granny. Lala forces herself not to hug her arms around her belly; she keeps them outstretched to maintain equilibrium and bites her bottom lip instead. She bites it until it bleeds.
Lala does not know where she will find Adan. All she knows is that he is somewhere on the beach, doing a job. Adan doesn't tell her much before he leaves for this type of work, least of all where he will be working. Still, when his sneakers carry her off the last step and onto the sand, Lala propels herself forward because she knows she needs to find him, she knows that something is wrong, that more than a month before she is due to have her baby, she should not be bleeding blurry poinsettia flowers everywhere she sits.
Ten minutes later she finally reaches the sidewalk behind the big houses on Baxter's Beach and is barely limping along, despite bleeding that would warrant a run. The big houses, for the most part, have their backs to the road, with impenetrable wooden gates, unscalable walls, and hedges higher than her grasp extends. While she works on the beach during the day, braiding and beading the silky hair of tourists, Lala sees the fronts of these houses, their patio railings low enough to be kissed by the water. Tonight, thinks Lala, the houses have firmly turned their backs on her, and she does not dare to rattle a gate and ask for help. There might be dogs, she reasons, or security guards with guns, and the sticky slick between her legs does not seem like a good enough reason to risk facing them.
But when the pain grows sharper and she cannot catch her breath and the sneakers are spotted in red and the flowers have made a carpet on the back of Wilma's white nightgown, Lala becomes brave and decides to ring the buzzer beside the ornate service gate in the guard wall of the house nearest to her. And after she has rung it once, she finds that she cannot stop and she presses it so desperately that it pulses more quickly than each gasping breath she takes. By this time she is no longer sure that the dogs and the guns could be worse than the suffering she is enduring. By this time she is no longer looking just for Adan; she is looking for help.
While she is pressing this buzzer, Lala hears a gun go off inside the house, and while she is still wondering whether it really was a gun or just the noise a malfunctioning buzzer makes—a pop-pop instead of a trill—the gate beside her is wrenched open and there stands Adan, right in front of her, calm as the day but for his throbbing scar and the menace on his face.
Lala does not believe in coincidences, and apparently neither does Adan. She does not quake with relief when she sees her husband close the service gate of the big house behind him. He does not ask what the fuck she is doing there. Instead, he turns her around and shoves her ahead of him, and then he sees the red on the back of her skirt and Lala hears him swear and believes he understands that the God she prays to has led her to just this house at just this time so that she can find her husband just when she needs him most.
Adan extracts his bike from the back of a bush and removes a pair of black woolen gloves from his big hands and Lala sees one of her stocking legs hanging like a limp tongue from his pocket, spattered in blood that is not her own. Understanding dawns on her face in the breath between contractions, then fear. At that moment, Lala loses the ability to do anything but stand there, staring at him. It is Adan, she thinks, who puts her on the bar of the bike and reminds her to lift and point her legs so he can pedal without tripping over her feet. It is Adan who tells her to cover her ears when someone starts screaming from that same house. It is Adan who snaps that she should shut the fuck up when she starts to explain why she came, despite everything he told her. Whatever she does, Adan says, pedaling so hard that his thighs whomp-whomp into her flanks as they ride away from the service gate, do not look back, do not look back. We have to get out of here, says Adan. Fast.
When they career into the parking lot of Baxter's General twenty minutes later, Adan removes the stocking from his pocket, the gun from his waistband, and the black T-shirt from his back, exposing his white vest and dark chest to the early-morning air. Lala does not remind him that by doing so he is risking worse illnesses than they can afford. Lala is quiet. Adan throws the stocking, the gun, and the T-shirt into a peeling yellow dumpster at the east end of the parking lot while she waits bleeding on the sidewalk. He is calm as he does this, so that he does not arouse suspicion, but there is hardly anyone about. He rearranges some discarded wood inside the dumpster so that it covers the gun and the stocking, as if it's the most natural thing in the world for him to be doing at 2 a.m. on a Friday morning. Lala is beginning to feel like she is fading, but she is not sure that what she feels is faintness. What she is sure of is that the scream she heard begin the moment Adan's bare feet left the pavement outside the service gate with the buzzer was the scream of someone mourning a loved one newly dead or dying. That scream fills her head so much that she cannot trust herself to speak after she shuts up, because she believes that if she opens her mouth that scream is the only thing that will come out.
* * *
Three things are true about Baxter's General Hospital.
One is that there is never any toilet paper in the bathroom in the Accident and Emergency Department. Instead there is a little sign next to the one wide mirror, pockmarked with rust, saying that paper is dispensed by the nurse on duty. You can miss that sign if you are not looking. If you are frantic. If your visit to the bathroom is a by-product of your emergency. If you are in a rush, it is only once you are seated in the stall, expelling what must be released, that you realize you are without a means to clean yourself up, without the ability to call someone to help you. Which is why the stalls are full of the evidence of human accident—palm prints of human excrement on the toilet tank, blood spatter beneath reminders that FIZZY WUZ HERE and ROCKIE AND RAINA 4 EVA on the walls.
The second true thing about Baxter's General is that the nurses really do tell you to shut up: You were not screaming so loudly while your man was impregnating you, so why are you behaving so badly now that what he has left inside you is finding its way back out?
Three is that the nurses do not look you in the eye when they know they cannot help you, when you are pushing out a premature baby they know will soon be born dead. If it is you and two nurses, and if you scream that they must call a doctor, they assume you are unaware that doctors at Baxter's are scarce and that there are no doctors to waste on a baby that is already in the realm of the spirit.
Lala learns the first true thing at four o'clock in the morning when she and Adan have already been in the Accident and Emergency Department for two hours and she feels the need to go. They are sitting side by side on two blue plastic chairs, his right hand clasping her left, his left hand rubbing the scar on his forehead, both of them bent over at the waist as if genuflecting before the big gray double doors behind which is someone who can save their baby.
Inside the waiting room, Adan inhales sharply and looks around with the slow sideways stare of a snake every time the doors slide open. He exhales only after he confirms it is another someone ailing, not the police looking for him. He has already spelled out Lala's name to the nurse staring at a computer screen behind bulletproof glass. He has already returned to the glass, leaned into the series of holes in the shape of a flower until his tongue is almost flat against them, and reminded the nurse that his wife is bleeding. He has tested the limits of his patience so much that his anger can no longer contain itself and trembles through his shoes to tap on the green linoleum tiles of the floor. When Lala starts shaking and fainting in and out of a sort of sleep, this anger radiates outward and Adan jumps upright, sends the chair skating backward and starts to boom swear words into the quiet of the room.
"Wunna understand that my fucking wife here bleeding 'til she ready to faint?"
The nurse behind the glass is fastening a little watch, made like a brooch, onto her starched white tunic. She takes her time doing so, despite the ominous rumble of Adan's distress. The nurse has suffered these types of outbursts before and has become immune to them.
Adan sprints into an adjoining room, wrangles a blanket off another nurse and returns to wrap it around his wife. He is still looking at the door, still thinking about the gun in the dumpster and what happened at the house. Finally, when they hear a siren wailing closer, Adan says he must leave her there, go somewhere where he can lay low, just in case. And Lala doesn't remind him that it is possible she could be about to lose his baby.
Lala thinks she asks him to help her to the toilet first, but she is sure he leaves her in the doorway of the ladies' room. Lala searches every single stall but all the toilet tissue dispensers are empty and she hasn't seen the sign and she comes outside and Adan is gone and her head is spinning and she stumbles into the men's room and searches it also because there is blood all over the back of Wilma's nightgown and she will be damned if there is now going to be shit all over it too. And right when she comes back outside to ask a nurse or a guard or another one of the sick and waiting whether they have a pack of tissues or baby wipes or a napkin from a forgotten sandwich, a voice calls her name over the PA system and the gray doors open and a nurse appears—a squat woman with an ill-fitting wig and a uniform too white to suggest a good bedside manner—and the nurse says Hurry up we don't have all night and Lala does not move because now she's wet herself and she's embarrassed and hurting worse than before and the nurse sucks her teeth because now it will have to be cleaned up (Didn't you know you wanted to go?) and then she notices Lala's belly is rounder than just fat and she notices the bloody prints that the soles of Adan's sneakers have made on the green-gray floor and she shouts. A stretcher comes, and Lala is lying down when she enters the doors and passes into a hallway with prone people groaning. She sees arms held at odd angles and gashes and wounds and shirts and towels being pressed to foreheads and mouths and bleeding places and she looks up to spare herself and there is a grid of ceiling tiles and square fluorescent lights tic-tac-toeing into the future and Lala wonders whether, after all she has already been through, she is going to die here. And the thought does not distress her. The stretcher stops and another nurse appears and when next she comes to, they are telling her to push but Lala does not want to push because she is afraid of what she will find.
Lala learns the second true thing, because when she opens her mouth to ask for water the scream she has been hiding comes out instead. Lala wants to tell them This is not my scream—this is a scream I picked up from a house on Baxter's Beach because she is hoping that the nurses will understand that this scream will also require treatment, but they don't. The nurse with the bad Boney M wig says Shut up and asks her if this is how she was screaming when she was taking the man who got her into this mess. Her eyes tell Lala that she cannot, will not, allow Lala's screaming to get into her own head because it doesn't look good and these teenage girls without a pot to piss in are in here every day at younger and younger ages.
So Lala closes her mouth and swallows the scream she caught on Baxter's Beach the way some people catch a cold and in her mind she begs the baby not to die as she pushes and feels the vessels in the whites of her eyes pop and flood her vision.
And Lala learns the third true thing when she gets past the stinging and the tearing and the stretching and the slippage and is suddenly, breathlessly freed of a weight she has been carrying within her for the past eight months and recognizes that she does not hear the squall that, in every television depiction she has ever watched, signals the birth of a baby. So she says, "Nurse—nurse?" because she wants the reassurance that everything is all right, that the baby is fine, but the nurse does not look at her, the nurse yanks her wrist out of Lala's grasp and tells the other nurse to call the doctor and her hands are holding something that does not move. She is rushing the baby to the spot of light under a lit lamp on a table, putting a bulbous tube into its nostrils, rubbing and pressing and listening to the baby's chest. And Lala understands that it is not good and she does not want to look but she does and she wills the baby to live because she can see that the nurses have already given up and because, suddenly, she is angry that Adan is not there and after tonight, she is sure that she can no longer love Adan and perhaps the baby is all the good in him and she wants it to live so she can love it instead. Another nurse bursts into the room and a very young student doctor is behind her and it is the two of them who stand over her baby on the small side table and slap it and prod it and prick it with tubes and needles until Lala hears a weak little cry. And it is only after Lala starts to whimper her relief that the student says, "Is she stitched up?" and the nurse who worked on saving Baby says "No" and comes back to her and pats her arm and says it is okay, they are doing everything they can.
By the time they are done Baby is still blue but she is breathing, and she is taken from the small, white table and shown briefly to her mother and then whisked away and the room is quiet while Lala is stitched up and stabbed with more needles and transfused with someone else's blood and she is cold and she is shaking and the nurse with the wig is wrapping Wilma's blood-soaked nightie in a ball and putting it into a bag and preparing the room for another delivery and Lala asks if they can call Wilma and tell her Stella had the baby and ask her to come, even though she knows that Wilma will not come. And the nurse, unimpressed by the fact that Lala calls her grandmother by her first name but softened by Lala's apparent ability to beat the odds, says, "Okay—but the baby probably won't be able to have visitors for a while." And her tone says maybe the baby will never see visitors. And she leaves Lala in the cold quiet room on her back with her legs still splayed and no feeling at all at the intersection of her thighs and it is nothing like the bliss on the posters in the clinic or on the TV ads or the faces of the wealthy tourist women who walk with their newborns on Baxter's Beach. Instead, she realizes that she has now brought another person into the dark, that birth is an injury and having the baby has scarred her and when the nurse asks her if she wants to go with her to see her baby in ICU she shakes her head No and the nurse clucks Tsk, tsk and Lala thinks of Adan, who hasn't come back and she wonders if he went back for the gun but she keeps her mouth closed because some of the scream is still in there.
26 July 1984
"About a group of disparate characters in Barbados, all drawn together by a murder. The island may appear, at first glance, to be a near-paradise, but Jones’s forensic prose reveals a society riven by hardship, betrayal and inequality. It is a novel of great elegance and verve — hard to believe it’s a debut."—Maggie O’Farrell, author of Hamnet
“This book is heavy. And yet through debut novelist Cherie Jones’ poetic sensibility, it radiates a kind of breathtaking light, too . . . tough if luminous . . . through playful prose [she] invites the reader in. She never lets us lose sight of the heart—beating, wounded, alive—of tragic heroes.”—David Canfield, Entertainment Weekly
“Dazzling . . . in Jones’s capable hands, tension builds without diversion. The storytelling is far from breathless, but it will leave you that way: The effect is of a horrific opera in which ugliness is inevitable, but no less gutting when it appears. And in this opera, there are no minor characters. Each one, carefully and vividly crafted, has a crucial part to play.” —Deesha Philyaw, New York Times Book Review
“Stunning . . . The novel pulses with brutality and runs high with emotions, offering a searing and unforgettable portrait of generational trauma, a colonialist past, and a capitalist present."—Refinery 29
“This transporting novel set in Barbados reveals the way even the most disparate lives are interconnected. It delves into wealth and class, love and crime — and the emotional turmoil that roils in a rapidly gentrifying area and the people who live there.”—Good Housekeeping
"The novel’s a stunner . . . Jones’s evocation of Barbados is exquisite, her brushwork assured, as she portrays pink sands and gated villas, decrepit hospitals and 24-hour convenience stores. . . . Jones’s prose is supple, often luxuriant, but the structure of her novel is even more impressive as she bobs and weaves through the aftermath of two mysterious crimes. The pieces snap together, one by one, exposing the consequences of dreams deferred. Here’s the launch of a stellar literary career."—Hamilton Cain, Washington Post
“Harrowing . . . A compelling […] story of lives defined by trauma generation after generation.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Intense . . . Rich characters and pulsing backstories add a great deal of flavor to the drama. Jones is off to a strong start.”—Publishers Weekly
“The haves and have-nots clash in Jones’s searing debut. In affluent Baxter Beach, the gentry of Barbados maneuver around their servants with velvet gloves and steel nerves, exposing fault lines of resentment, love as ephemeral as a tropical breeze.”—O Magazine
“A hard-hitting and unflinching novel from a bold new writer who tackles head-on the brutal extremes of patriarchal abuse.”—Bernardine Evaristo, author of Girl, Woman, Other
“This book unfolds around the reader like ripples in water, it offers an unflinching vision of what it means to have a body and to fight to protect that body, it demands attention. These are characters voices I will be hearing for a long time and a book I will be recommending to everyone.”—Daisy Johnson, author of Sisters
“Cherie Jones’ How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House is an intricately plotted allegory that explores the consequences of believing that you know better than the women who made you and charts the inheritance of trauma that is all too common in Caribbean women's lives. With rare compassion and deft storytelling, Jones renders a narrative that is haunting and unforgettable.”—Naomi Jackson, author of The Star Side of Bird Hill
“A gripping thriller, a symphony of voices, and a novel of deep empathy.”—Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
“Here is a bright new star. Cherie Jones has talent abounding, drawing us with skill, delicacy and glorious style into a vortex of Bajan lives on the edge, clashing across class and color divides. This is one of the strongest, most assured and heart-wrenching debuts I have ever read.”—Diana Evans, author of Ordinary People and winner of the Orange Award for New Writers
"How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House is simply brilliant. By the first chapter, it burned into my heart. Ambitious, poetic, and layered with the rich voices of its many stunning characters, this terrific debut novel by Cherie Jones opened my eyes to the many ways that her young Barbadian protagonist must fight for her life."—Lawrence Hill, author of The Illegal and The Book of Negroes
“Cherie Jones's novel examines the calamities that occur when need and greed collide. Married couple Lala and Adan live on the beach in Barbados, and Adan has a plan: He's going to rob one of the Baxter Beach mansions. But when it all goes terribly wrong, everyone must reckon with the realities of the resort town they call home.”—Elle.com
“Welcome to Barbados, where wealth, class, love, crime and the lives of four characters merge in this seemingly picture-perfect paradise.”—Parade Magazine
"A plot driven by page-turning crime is balanced with subtle character studies . . . just as thrilling as it is poignant."—Marie Claire
"This intense debut thriller speaks volumes about domestic violence, class struggle, loss and the legacy of trauma."—Ms. Magazine
“It's a book of many things: of the limits of romantic and familial love; of intergenerational legacy, certainly; but more than anything else it is a book about the devastating reach of patriarchy on the most vulnerable members of society. . . . if you are looking for a story that explores power, bondage and freedom in the context of a small Caribbean community, How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House has many revelations.”—Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“Swap out SPF for this haunting novel….The women’s lives cross and the fallout gives a devastating new meaning to pink sands and paradise.”—The Skimm
- On Sale
- Feb 2, 2021
- Page Count
- 240 pages
- Little, Brown and Company