‘’You could tell me mind my business, but don’t lie and say he didn’t beat you. You could lie to the world, but don’t lie to yourself.”
The Bread The Devil Knead by Lisa Allen-Agostini, which has recently been shortlisted for the Women’s Fiction Prize for 2022, is a very heavy read. Set in Trinidad and Tobago, it deals with some tough subject matters such as racism, rape, family dysfunction, poverty, and gender inequality.
Alethea Lopez, aka Girlie, is a store manager at the On The Town clothing store on Fredrick Street, Port of Spain. When her coworkers begin to notice the bruises on her skin and welts on her face, she realizes that there’s only so much she can do to hide the fact that her partner, Leo, constantly abuses her.
After she witnessed the death of a woman killed by her jealous lover, the fact that it could one day be her if she doesn’t leave Leo hits too close to home, but how can she do that when her mother treated her no better than the chickens she raised?
Once upon a time, he was kind and loving and looked at her like she was the most beautiful thing in the world, so that should count for something, or so she thought.
Around this time, she reunites with her adopted brother, Colin, whom she has neither seen nor spoken to in over twenty years. Although they were as thick as thieves while growing up, she had to run away at 17 and cut off ties with everyone she knew to get away from all the pain and sorrow that her mother and uncle’s actions and inactions were causing her.
As Alethea reconnects with Colin, she learns that nearly everything she knows about her family is a lie and the truth threatens to haunt her.
This book was written in Trinidadian Creole, so if you are new to Caribbean literature like me, it may be discouraging for you to read, but I beg you, don’t put it down. Give it a little more time, and I promise you will become more familiar with the language.
I really enjoyed reading this book, even though it was extremely sad to read as I was reminded of how often women are killed by their abusive partners in different parts of the world.
If you know someone with an abusive partner, please don’t constantly judge them by asking why they can’t just leave because it’s not as easy as it seems, and Stockholm’s syndrome is really a thing! Life is not always black or white.
You can also help report abusers to the appropriate authorities instead of enabling abuse.
Add this book to your tbr list, and don’t sleep on it!!