A review by deedireads
The Bread the Devil Knead, by Lisa Allen-Agostini

dark emotional sad tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.5

All my reviews live at https://deedispeaking.com/reads/.

TL;DR REVIEW:

The Bread the Devil Knead is a well-written but very heavy novel about cycles of generational trauma and childhood and domestic abuse. I appreciated it and respect it, but I can’t quite say I enjoyed it.

For you if: You’re interested in reading books set in Trinidad, and/or about the traps of abuse.

FULL REVIEW:

I picked up The Bread the Devil Knead because it was shortlisted for this year’s Women’s Prize. While I’m glad that I read it, and I definitely appreciate and respect it, the brutality of the subject matter makes me not quite able to say that I enjoyed it. (TW: domestic abuse ahead)

Set in Port of Spain, Trinidad, the story is about a woman named Alethea. Having run away from an abusive household before bouncing from one bad boyfriend situation to another, she now manages a clothing shop while hiding the bruises her current boyfriend leaves her with. Two things happen to set the story in motion: one, she reconnects with her cousin (who she essentially raised as a baby brother), and two, a woman is shot and killed by a jealous boyfriend outside her shop. We also get flashbacks to her childhood, and new family secrets play into her consideration of whether she is in danger herself, whether she does or doesn’t want a change, and how much to let her friends into her life.

One thing I think this book did very well was to fully capture both Alethea and Port of Spain. I was really glad for the opportunity to read a novel written not only in Trinidad, but largely in a Trinidadian dialect. Alethea is a complex character, and the inside of her mind as we witness the impact of domestic abuse and generational trauma was very well done.

There were two main things that I didn’t quite love, though: First, there is a flashback scene toward the end of the book that, in my opinion, didn’t add anything but brutality. We as readers already knew that the events of the flashback had happened, and I didn’t feel like I needed to actually see it to understand its implication. Second, I’m not sure how I feel about the ending. I don’t want to spoil it, but I guess I’ll just say that it didn’t feel like it worked as hard as I’d hoped it might.

There are definitely aspects of this novel worthy of being read; just know going in that it’s a tough one.

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