How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House

Shortlisted for the 2021 Women's Prize for Fiction

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Pub Date 21 Jan 2021 | Archive Date 4 Feb 2021
Headline, Tinder Press

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Women's Prize for Fiction 2021
SHORTLISTED

'Jones's atmospheric debut has a multiracial, multigenerational cast who are brilliantly and even-handedly portrayed' Sunday Times

'Rare is the first book that reveals the writer fully formed, the muscles and sinews of her sentences firm and taut, the voice distinctly her own' Washington Post

'A hard-hitting and unflinching novel from a bold new writer' Bernardine Evaristo

'A bright new star. Cherie Jones draws us with skill, delicacy and glorious style into a vortex of Bajan lives on the edge' Diana Evans


In Baxter's Beach, Barbados, Lala's grandmother Wilma tells the story of the one-armed sister, a cautionary tale about what happens to girls who disobey their mothers.

For Wilma, it's the story of a wilful adventurer, who ignores the warnings of those around her, and suffers as a result.

When Lala grows up, she sees it offers hope - of life after losing a baby in the most terrible of circumstances and marrying the wrong man.

And Mira Whalen? It's about keeping alive, trying to make sense of the fact that her husband has been murdered, and she didn't get the chance to tell him that she loved him after all.

HOW THE ONE-ARMED SISTER SWEEPS HER HOUSE is the powerful, intense story of three marriages, and of a beautiful island paradise where, beyond the white sand beaches and the wealthy tourists, lies poverty, menacing violence and the story of the sacrifices some women make to survive.

'An extraordinarily hard-hitting and evocative novel that packs a tremendous punch with its repercussions of generational trauma, pin-sharp characterisations and strong sense of place' Daily Mail

Women's Prize for Fiction 2021
SHORTLISTED

'Jones's atmospheric debut has a multiracial, multigenerational cast who are brilliantly and even-handedly portrayed' Sunday Times

'Rare is the first book that...


Advance Praise

'Here is a bright new star. Cherie Jones has talent abounding, drawing us with skill, delicacy and glorious style into a vortex of Bajan lives on the edge, clashing across class and colour divides. This is one of the strongest, most assured and heart-wrenching debuts I have ever read.'

- Diana Evans, author of Ordinary People

'…an intricately plotted allegory that explores the consequences of believing that you know better than the women who made you and charts the inheritance of trauma that is all too common in Caribbean women's lives. With rare compassion and deft storytelling, Jones renders a narrative that is haunting and unforgettable.'

- Naomi Jackson, author of The Star Side of Bird Hill

'This book unfolds around the reader like ripples in water, it offers an unflinching vision of what it means to have a body and to fight to protect that body, it demands attention. These are characters’ voices I will be hearing for a long time and a book I will be recommending to everyone.'

- Daisy Johnson, author of Everything Under

'Here is a bright new star. Cherie Jones has talent abounding, drawing us with skill, delicacy and glorious style into a vortex of Bajan lives on the edge, clashing across class and colour divides...


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ISBN 9781472268778
PRICE £16.99 (GBP)

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Featured Reviews

TW: abuse, sex abuse, incest, murder, rape⠀ ⠀ I was feeling quite emotional anyway when I finished this book but I do think it was quite an emotional read regardless so by the time I came to the ending, there was a lump in my throat and my eyes were very wet. ⠀ ⠀ How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones is set on the island of Barbados a.k.a. paradise if you’re a tourist. Lala is raised by her grandma after her mother was murdered when she was a child. At 18, she is now married to a brute who often savagely beats her. A murder of a wealthy white tourist one night will change everyone’s life, and this book follows its aftermath. ⠀ ⠀ The story is told from alternating points of view, which worked surprisingly really well, considering it often jumped to random characters’. It was great to get other people’s backstories, their thoughts and feelings on events that were happening and get a real sense of who they were as people and not as just someone in a story. ⠀ ⠀ The narrative style was really beautiful, it was honestly such a delight to be able to read and consume these words. I don’t even know if I can really explain what it’s like, but Jones does this thing where she seamlessly switches between different pronouns, or how she directly addresses the reader. It’s just brilliant! Each character also has a very distinguished way of speaking which is reflected very clearly in the language, for example if they spoke in broken english. ⠀ ⠀ The struggles faced by every character could be uncomfortable to read about, which shows how successful Jones is in forcing us to see how other people live. One thing that I thought was 10/10 was showing how white privilege works. It’s there for every white person, but she makes it clear that that’s not to say that they don’t suffer. All white people from varying classes suffer but they will also still benefit from white privilege irregardless. ⠀ ⠀ This is definitely not a fun and light read but it’s certainly one that kept me gripped and had me constantly feeling many emotions. I think this book may interest readers who enjoy drama as well as reading about realistic but difficult topics. ⠀

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How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House takes its title from a cautionary tale told by a grandmother to her granddaughter, to keep her in check. The granddaughter is Lala, who we next see married, pregnant, and definitely not having listened to the story's warning. Lala goes into labour in the middle of the night, and wakes to find herself alone in the house she shares with her husband. Panicked, she goes outside to find him, and interrupts something she shouldn't. Aden is in one of the big beachfront houses, dressed in black, carrying a gun. The next day, Lala returns home amid news of the murder of a wealthy tourist, and soon she has grief of her own to contend with.  HTOASSHH is pacy and engaging, with Lala's past weaving through the novel to bring us to her present.

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“Even now, with Baby sleeping open-mouthed between the both of you, when you are reassured of reality by the chirping of birds, the swish of the coconut leaves and the roar and retreat of the waves below, even now, you can look into the face of the man snoring on the other side of that small baby, and wonder who he is.” This novel is set in Barbados, where tourists find paradise and locals try to make ends meet. Lala is about to give birth while she is home alone. She panics and goes looking for her husband Adan on the beach. There she meets him at one of the luxury villas just after he has committed a crime that will have major consequences.. This story is full of strong characters who each have to fight their own battles. The chain of events is sad and at times uncomfortable to read about, but that’s also the strength of this novel. You really feel like you’re “there”. This is real life. One of my favorite reads this year. Really impressive debut and I’m looking forward to future books of Cherie Jones.

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The intriguingly named “How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House” by Cherie Jones is one powerful and raw debut novel, that is both heart wrenching and brutal and not for the faint hearted. Set in Baxter’s Beach Barbados, we see both sides to this beautiful tropical island. The views and thoughts from the tourists visiting their place in paradise and through the eyes of the local Bajans, poor and jobless and living in ramshackle houses, in an often violent and brutal environment. This is a story featuring three women. Wilma, who relates the cautionary tale of the one-armed sister to Lala, her granddaughter. Lala, still hoping for a decent life, knowing she’s married the wrong man and after loosing her newborn baby in the most tragic of circumstances. And Mira Whalen, trying to stay alive after her husband Peter is killed in a bungled robbery at their villa, knowing she won’t be able to tell him how much she loved him after all. This story is incredibly powerful and at times exceedingly hard to read. The author hasn’t held anything back when it comes to the horrors of domestic violence and sexual assault. The thoughts of the victims are intense and emotional and because the narrative is so convincing it’s pretty easy to really get in their troubled heads alongside their true feelings. The story unfolds in a multitude of the characters timelines, following their younger years through to the current time. The ending tied up nicely the three stories and along with Adan and Tone, the two central male protagonists, I felt the climax was engaging and thrilling. If like me you enjoyed reading “My Sister the Serial Killer”, you should enjoy this too. Cherie Jones is a very talented author, that I will follow in the future with any further novels and I wish her every success with this strong and compassionate tale of women, who live to fight and survive male violence.

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Cherie Jones’ visceral debut novel is both a thriller and a remarkable exploration of crime, inequality and violence in Baxter’s Beach, Barbados and known as ‘Paradise’ to both the locals and the moneyed white tourists who visit. It is two women, both locally born, that are the lynchpins for this story which follows the chain of events set in motion when charismatic local thief, Adan Primus, is interrupted midway through robbing the beachfront villa of a wealthy white Englishman. But before any of that unfolds the novel opens with Wilma telling her thirteen-year-old granddaughter, Lala - and one of the two central woman to feature - a cautionary tale intended to warn her of the dangers of excessive curiosity. Fast-forward and a heavily pregnant Lala braids hair on the beach, has escaped her claustrophobic life with Wilma and is living in a shack with Adan, a hot-headed local who is handy with his fists. Bleeding and in excruciating pain early one morning, Lala fear she is losing her child and goes in search of Adan and in desperation she pushes the buzzer of a plush beachfront villa, the very same villa that her husband is midway through burgling. As chaos ensues Lala hears a gunshot and is horribly aware of what has gone on as she arrives at hospital and experiences a traumatic touch-and-go birth. As Adan lies low in fear that the victim’s wife could identify him Baxter’s Beach pulsates with the news that English tourist, Peter Whalen, has been murdered. Married to locally born Mira who has struck lucky and escaped the cycle of poverty in Barbados, Peter Whalen’s death changes everything for both Mira and Lala. Angry with everyone but himself, a tempestuous Adan argues with Lala and when the couple’s new baby is found lifeless on Baxter’s Beach after a reported kidnapping the police arrive. As a washed-up local detective is moved from the Whalen murder to investigate this mysterious kidnapping the tension increases with Adan becoming more uncontainable by the day. How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House is one of the most powerfully intense novels that I have read and it is credit to Jones’ accomplished characterisation that the reading experience feels so raw. The novel plays out from the perspective of several characters, including Lala, widowed Mira Whalen, Adan and Tone (Adam’s right-hand man) with the narrative moving back and forth in time. Lala and Mira in particularly are richly described with their unfolding backstories adding to the reader’s understanding of them and Jones’ consideration of the lasting impact of Tone’s assault is handled with the delicacy and empathy they deserve. Exploring the awful secret and painful circumstances that have shackled Wilma to a life with Carson and taking in the the murder of their daughter it paints a picture of a legacy of trauma at the hands of men that reverberates through the generations. Whilst the brutality of events throughout the novel makes for a hard-hitting read it also feels like an essential one. The unspoken but enduring relationship between selfless Tone and Lala offers a much needed glimmer of hope and with it the promise of salvation and a brighter future and this was the crowning glory of an incredible story for me. The narrative is stunningly written with a real swagger and rhythmical flow that slides down and is dotted with Bajan dialect that adds to the reading experience. On turning the final page I was left hungry for more and not yet ready to say goodbye to characters that have left an indelible imprint on my mind and in my heart.

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Already one of my books of the year for 2021 and it's only January. Just wow! Set in Barbados on Baxters Beach where the life of rich holiday makers and expats intersects that of beach gigolos and petty criminals. The story follows the life of Lala having left the home of her grandmother Wilma to settle for marriage in a tattered beach home with Aden. TW: abuse, sexual assault, incest, infant death, murder, rape.

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How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House is a suitably evocative and thought-provoking title for the powerful story that this book holds between its covers. The title refers to a cautionary tale about girls who break the rules, told to one of our lead characters, Lala, by her grandmother. Not that she really takes heed of it, as Lala’s life is not an easy one. Set in a small beachside town in (mainly) 1980s Barbados, teenage Lala finds herself pregnant and married to a man that her grandmother Wilma (who raised her) does not approve of. For good reason, it turns out. The story opens with a traumatic birth. I wasn’t quite prepared for the tragedy that we are thrown straight into with Lala and her baby. While Lala is the character we discover most about, the book also follows other local people and we see how their lives influence each other. The back stories of the characters reveals the rich but troubled history of life around Baxter’s Beach and the story explores how trauma can harrowingly transcend generations. Lala truly gave this novel its heart. I really cared about her and was rooting for her to buck the cycle she’s been born into and let her natural strength and resilience shine through. Mira Whalen is another character that really interested me. Also a native of Barbados, she marries into money and lives a very different life from Lala. Though not without its traumas – she is dealing with the aftermath of her husband’s murder. Extremes of anything are bad, and the two extremes of possession – deprivation and deluge – are especially crippling to the soul. The beautiful way How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House is written works so well to contrast the violence that you’re sometimes reading about. There is a particularly memorable section on Lala desperately trying to find someone who can pronounce her lyrical name in the way she wants it to be truly said, that has stayed with me. I would caveat this book by saying this is one of the most graphic I’ve read in regards to domestic violence and baby loss. Some pages were really hard to read and truly put my heart in my stomach. But while it wasn’t necessarily a comfortable read, it was addictive. The pulsing tone and exquisite language running through it just demanded that you keep reading. How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House is the debut from Cherie Jones and I’ll defintiely be keeping an eye out for what she writes next.

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Well this is a truly breathtaking book, but my goodness it also breaks your heart. It’s hard to describe this story in a way that could do it justice - there are themes of marriage, of family, of repeating the mistakes of those before us, of loss, of regret, of love, and mostly of survival...Jones has not shied away from topics which may be hard to swallow. It seems only fair to say that this could be quite triggering for some people as there are many moments of brutality and tragedy, but if you can stomach this then it is absolutely worth it for the beauty and boldness of Jones’s writing. This isn’t the side of Barbados which we may dream of on cold days - this is an unflinching look at the poverty and crime, and the way it rubs right against the wealthy holiday homes and tourists completely ignorant of these things. In fact, Jones brings these two elements together almost seamlessly with two women as far apart in circumstance as possible, yet inextricably linked by a crime one night. Lala, a young local woman about to give birth to a child born of a terrible man, and Mira, a wealthy woman whose husband is murdered on the same night as the birth. The way these stories are brought together with multiple timelines and narratives from a cast of characters is nothing short of spectacular. This is a powerful story - it’s violent, it’s honest, brutal and completely unflinching in the telling, but that’s what makes it so special. It’s a story full of contradictions - from the white sandy beaches on one hand, to the local men selling their bodies to wealthy tourists on the other. It’s full of the realities and complexities of island life and makes for a devastating but beautiful read. Not one I’ll forget in a hurry.

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