Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Review: A Cupboard Full of Coats by Yvvette Edwards

What would you do if you opened the door to find a man you hadn't seen in 14 years standing on your doorstep, a man who disappeared from your sixteen year old life? What if you had loved him with every fiber of your teenaged self? What if the last night you saw him was the night your mother died, was murdered? What if you held yourself responsible for her death, you felt you killed her? How would you respond to this man from the past then? This is the opening premise of Yvvette Edwards' first novel, a novel longlisted for the Booker Prize.

Jinx has spent the past fourteen years blaming herself for her mother's violent death. She is so full of guilt and anger at the situation that she is completely emotionally frozen, unable to connect even to her young son Ben. Her husband Red moved out with Ben when he was just a baby and Jinx hasn't been able to repair the relationship either with Red or with Ben because she is so trapped by her feeling of culpability. So she lives a lonely and unfulfilled life. But when Lemon shows up on her doorstep, he starts to thaw her just by his very presence, forcing her to remember that terrible night and what led up to it.

Inviting him to stay, Jinx is afraid to re-open herself emotionally to Lemon but he gently and insistently takes her into the tragedy of his own life, having just lost his wife and been estranged from his own son for his son's entire life, as he leads her to face the biggest tragedy of her life. Alternately narrated by Jinx and by Lemon, the past comes to life as they finally speak of Jinx's beautiful mother and of Berris, her fiance and lover, the man who murdered her in a fit of jealous rage. Each of them adds layers to the tragedy, sharing from their own perspective, admitting their feelings from the time, exposing what drove them to act the way they did, finally creating a complete and total picture of that night. As Lemon listens and expands on Jinx's understanding of the events leading up to her mother's murder, he cares for her, nurtures her, and cracks open her heart just the tiniest bit, allowing her to finally face all her confused and unhappy feelings, to share the unspeakable, and to let go.

The novel is exquisitely written. It takes place over one weekend although it ranges backwards fourteen years and to the months leading up to the murder. There is a slow uncovering of long, intentionally buried memories and Edwards uses all of the senses to show this blossoming, describing sights and sounds and noises with a startling vividness. And she tackles race, conceptions of beauty, abuse, love, family, and coming of age surprisingly fully all within this relatively short novel. The way that the reverberations of the murder leak into every crevice of Jinx's life and the way that her all-consuming guilt dooms her to be an emotionally distant and confused mother are convincingly shown. While there is certainly no doubt as to the fact of the murder (it is made clear almost from the start that Berris went to prison for it), the way in which the whole truth about the circumstances is revealed is masterfully done, keeping the tension of the story constant and drawing the reader ever forward. Intense, passionate, and brimming with emotion, this is a compelling read.

For more information about Yvvette Edwards and the book visit her Facebook page. Follow the rest of the blog tour or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.


  1. This sounds really good! Adding it to my list. Great review!

  2. This sounds good. Thanks for sharing.

  3. The last paragraph you wrote is powerful! Wow! I agree! Can't wait to see what Edwards writes next :)

  4. I'm glad you enjoyed this one as much as you did! Thanks for being on the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page.

  5. And yet ANOTHER to add to my to-buy list. Thanks so much (as my book-buying wallet groans)


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