A Cupboard Full of Coats
By Yvvette Edwards
Oneworld Publications, 2011
Jinx, a woman in her early thirties, is living alone in the East London home she grew up in with her mother, when Lemon, a friend of her mother’s, unexpectedly knocks on the door. It has been 14 years since Jinx’s mother was murdered, and 14 years since Jinx has seen Lemon. Jinx invites Lemon in and they begin a three-day remembrance of the turbulent time leading up to her mother’s murder, when Jinx’s mother fell in love with Berris, Lemon’s oldest friend.
This is a powerful story. The chapters seamlessly glide between the present visit with Lemon, and Jinx’s teen years when Berris and Lemon came into her life. There is also a brief scene with Jinx’s ex-husband, Red, and her estranged son, Ben. Jinx, the daughter of a Montserratian mother and Jamaican father, who died when she was quite young, had an unremarkable childhood until her mother fell in love with, Berris. Berris literally changed the course of her and her mother’s lives, and through her conversations with Lemon, Jinx works through guilt, shame and anger around her mother’s death.
Longlisted for the 2011 Man Booker prize, Edwards has not gotten a lot of press in the US. Nor did I find an author website. I read about this book in Poets and Writers magazine and learned more about Edwards from an interview in The Millions that was published in 2011 when she was longlisted for the Booker. Although the woman on the jacket of the photo looks like she is in her late 20s, Edwards was 45 when A Cupboard Full of Coats came out in the UK. I found this book to be beautifully rendered and completely engrossing. It is a mother-daughter story with incredible depth. Edwards talks about how she came up with the story idea in on the Foyles website.