BOOK REVIEW: Caul Baby by Morgan Jerkins


Publication Date: April 6, 2021
Format: Hardcover
Genre:  Magical Realism/black fiction 

Publisher: Harper      
352 pages
Buy:  Kindle Hardcover 


Laila desperately wants to become a mother, but each of her previous pregnancies has ended in heartbreak. This time has to be different, so she turns to the Melancons, an old and powerful Harlem family known for their caul, a precious layer of skin that is the secret source of their healing power.

When a deal for Laila to acquire a piece of caul falls through, she is heartbroken, but when the child is stillborn, she is overcome with grief and rage. What she doesn’t know is that a baby will soon be delivered in her family—by her niece, Amara, an ambitious college student—and delivered to the Melancons to raise as one of their own. Hallow is special: she’s born with a caul, and their matriarch, Maman, predicts the girl will restore the family’s prosperity.

Growing up, Hallow feels that something in her life is not right. Did Josephine, the woman she calls mother, really bring her into the world? Why does her cousin Helena get to go to school and roam the streets of New York freely while she’s confined to the family’s decrepit brownstone?

As the Melancons’ thirst to maintain their status grows, Amara, now a successful lawyer running for district attorney, looks for a way to avenge her longstanding grudge against the family. When mother and daughter cross paths, Hallow will be forced to decide where she truly belongs. 


I received this book through the Literati book Club. 

I wasn't sure if I was going to like this book but I was immediately intrigued by it and it just kept getting better.  

Jerkins doesn't really paint men in a great light in this book.  In fact they are barely significant characters in this book and those there are aren't great.  They are cheaters, weak and the white ones are racist or just clueless and riding on your coattails.  It is the women who dominate this book.  

This book focuses on the power of women and the bond they form with their children, the terrible loss they feel when they experience infertility or the loss of a child. There is just so much that goes on in this book I think that it will sit with me for quite a long time.  

The Melancon family are a powerful and dysfunctional family. The women are all born of the Caul and that keeps them from harm.  They are fearful of the outside and strangers stealing their caul, and because they are virtually indestructible there is a lot of abuse that goes on in the name of family. They sell pieces of this caul for healing and protection.  However they don't sell to any people in their own community in Harlem.  They only sell to white families because they can pay more.  When Harrow the youngest of the clan tries to buck the system and help her community she finds that change is not always welcome or appreciated.  

Gentrification, the black community lifting itself up instead of trying to reach a certain level only to cater to a different community, the relationship between mothers and daughter and the freedom of making your own choices are main themes in this well written and enchanting book. The magical realism creates such a visual picture of what is happening in the lives of the characters and the world around them.  

The only piece of this book that disturbed me was the description of an adoption referred to as abandoning her child.  However this book does serve to show that traditional closed adoptions are not healthy for anyone.  For the most part birth parents will always wonder how their child is doing and the children will always wonder where they came from. Open adoption grows the number of people in your family and couldn't we all use more people who love and appreciate us? 

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