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The Gospel According to Cane

by Courttia Newland

Beverly Cottrell was a successful English teacher in a happy marriage, living in a comfortable middle-class home with her husband and baby until the unthinkable happened. Her eight month old sleeping baby, Malakay, was snatched from the car when her husband popped into a shop for a bottle of wine.

Beverly’s marriage falls apart, she quits her job, and moves to a west London estate where she volunteers as a creative writing teacher in an after school club for marginalised young people. Now, twenty years later, a boy starts to appear at all the places Beverly goes and eventually he approaches her saying he is Malakay.

Who is this boy that claims to be her son? With no proof of who he is she lets him move into her flat against counsel from her therapist, her prissy sister and her sister’s prissy husband, her lover (one of the policemen who worked on the boy’s case twenty years ago) and most of all her “kids” who challenge Malakay: “Is this brudda botherin’ you miss?” But against all her better instincts and all of the well-meaning advice Beverly does not want this boy to go, and her emotional stability is rocked to the core.

This novel provides a great depiction of grief and emotional pain (throughout the book Beverly, who narrates the story, offers us definitions of pain from medical text books). Interspersed with the story of her missing child we’re invited into Beverley’s nightmares about Barbadian ancestry where her distant family colluded with the slavers on the island. It’s a clever piece of writing, covering thought-provoking topics about race, guilt, grief and, ultimately, what is possible.

Published by Telegram, 267pp.

Irene Haynes

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