Caul Baby is a book, days after finishing, I still don’t know how to review. It’s a tender, emotional, thought provoking story about motherhood and solidarity. I listened to this one via audio from Libro.fm and while I had to take breaks, I was always captivated by the story. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.
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.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from the Libro.fm. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
Caul Baby is a story that kept growing. A narrative and generational story about trauma and community. Beginning with the story of Laila’s desire to become pregnant, Jenkins expands Caul Baby into one of Black motherhood and women’s bodies. What initially drew me to Caul Baby is this tender and incredibly heart wrenching portrayal of motherhood. Of the desperate ache within your heart, the piercing sadness of miscarriages, and the ways our relationships can crumble. And then Caul Baby almost morphs and evolves before your eyes.
Into a story about Black mothers and the sacrifices they’ve made. The concept of the caul expands into an issue of privilege, access, and exploitation. And Jenkins only begins to tighten the strings connecting these women. The bonds created by their desires and fears. It turns into a narrative about community and expansion. What I loved about this audiobook, was that Joniece Abbott-Pratt expertly manages these changes in pace. The steady increasing crescendo as their stories weave together. It made listening to the audiobook an experience that almost weaves you into the story.
I lack the words to describe the multi-layered narrative within Caul Baby. Ultimately, if you’re interested in a story that examines motherhood, solidarity within the Black community, and one that never offers easy answers, you should pick up Caul Baby. It is one that I had a hard time putting down because I kept thinking about the story. About these women’s choices.
(Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. For more information you can look at the Policy page. If you’re uncomfortable with that, know you can look up the book on any of the sites below to avoid the link)