Title: The Cherry Robbers
Author: Sarai Walker
Genre: Literary Fiction, Gothic Fiction
Reading “The Cherry Robbers” reminded me of Allende’s writing, of a lot of Alvarez thrown in for good measure, and some Cisneros as well, and in all of this I was most happy to read Sarai Walker’s voice about a family and its generational trauma, taking on topics such as marriage, women’s health, depression, and solitude.
The Cherry Robbers is about Sylvia Wren, a world-renowned extremely private painter living in New Mexico, away from the public gaze. Her solitary life comes to standstill when she receives a letter from a journalist, who plans to write an exposé about Sylvia’s life: that she is Iris Chapel, the sole heiress of the Chapel Firearms fortune, who disappeared around sixty years ago.
Thus, begins a journey with the Chapel family for the reader – of knowing what happened to Sylvia’s five sisters, of how her mother was hidden away, and what prompted Sylvia to abandon her life as Iris.
For the sisters, marriage equals death – that’s the curse really, and to me it was fantastic to see how Walker takes agency and feminism and places it in 50s Connecticut, when none existed, and creates for us a feminist, Gothic tale of sisterhood and male power, and what it means to be free for a woman.
The writing is taut and, in some places, perhaps slips also but it is nonetheless magnificent. There is a high degree of suspense and thrill, the pace doesn’t slow down, and more than anything manages to explore female desire – each woman with a distinct personality, with a mind of her own, leading complex and most tumultuous lives.
The Cherry Robbers is about women constantly on the run – from their families, from the society at large, and sometimes even from themselves. It is a book that tells you of a time gone by and how rather unfortunately some of the beliefs of that time are present even now. It is a book about privilege and class, and boundaries, and restraint and yet celebrates freedom on so many levels. A wonderful read, in my opinion.