Generational trauma & domestic abuse in The Bread the Devil Knead by Lisa Allen-Agostini: A review

Generational trauma & domestic abuse in The Bread the Devil Knead by Lisa Allen-Agostini: A review

Trigger Warning: Tread cautiously if you are a victim of abuse and trauma.

Alethea Lopez aka Allie is in love with a man who continuously batters her. She lives in constant fear and terror of him. But can’t seem to walk away from this toxic relationship. “Even with the licks and the rest of it, when he wasn’t hurting me, he was my best lover. For me, that was good enough.”

Allie thinks very low of herself courtesy of poverty, a repeated cycle of abuse by her mother, uncle, and numerous lovers. Her mother beat her for everything and nothing. Her uncle raped her from when she was five years old til the age of 17. She is caved in by life with her boyfriend, Leo, and takes what she can get. The smaĺl joys she gets from reading a good book and having good sex keep her afloat, plus new-found friends. Allie is a typical woman next door who seemingly has it all-a a job, a handsome boyfriend of over five years. Talk about stability! Relationship goals 101. However, like many of us, she has deep-seated secrets which she covers with makeup, confidence, and playing the perfect girlfriend card.

The Bread the Devil Knead is told in Trinidadian Creole, which at first was difficult to grasp but I got the hang of it and enjoyed it. The language grounds the books in the sights and sounds of Trinidad’s capital-Port of Spain where Allie lives and works. Allen-Agostini does what Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi does in her writing: use the language of the people. The world has to warm up to it. It’s clear she writes for the Trinidad audience as Jennifer writes for the Ugandan audience with her use of Uglish. 

The book is aptly written and reveals the old adage that hurt people hurt others but also healing is possible through whatever pain.

I begged Allie to walk away from Leo ( in my mind of course) but I knew she had to do it when she was ready. Having been through a relationship that wasn`t serving me well(please note I wasn`t battered nor did I go through anything close to what Allie experiences), I know firsthand that you can only walk away from a situation you want to walk away from or are ready to walk away from. In Luganda we say, oyina okukowa directly translated, You have to get tired and then you will walk away by yourself.

The novel is told through both first-person narration and third-person narration. The flashbacks told through the third person narration flesh out Allie`s past and present. As a reader, you understand why Allie could not walk away from Leo even when the abuse got worse and people offered her a way out. The use of first-person narration for the most part of the book lends authenticity to the characters and endears them to the reader. 

I enjoyed the novel but couldn’t stomach the abuse. Allie endured punches each night at the hands of Leo who she constantly defended to her friends.

Hear nah, girl, you have to leave that man, you know.’

         ‘Who, Leo?’

         ‘Yes, Leo! Who else? You feel is the nuts man I there with?’

         ‘Well these nuts kind of dry…’

         ‘Thing to cry you laughing?’

         ‘What you want me do, Tamika? Leave him and go where? And do what?’

         ‘How you mean? You’s a big woman. You’s a free woman, too. You not married. You don’t have no children. You have a good work. You buy house and car and land with he or what?’

         I shake my head.

         ‘Well, pack your things and leave.’

         ‘I can’t just walk out on him. Is not really he fault.’

I was enraged by Leo`s abusive tendencies. He abused Allie verbally, physically, sexually, and emotionally. And he blamed her for the abuse. NO WOMAN SHOULD ENDURE ANY FORM OF ABUSE AT THE HANDS OF HER MAN.

Allen-Agostini candidly talks about gender abuse, sexual abuse, love and pain, colourism, and generational trauma. Big issues that many women are battling with silently yet deserve to be discussed in the open with every woman at the table. 

I love that Allen-Agostini gives us hope. Hope which according to Romans 5:5 does not disappoint. Allie has experienced generational trauma which has her bound in a painful cycle of abuse. But in the end, she receives the much-needed break when her brother drives her to a retreat centre to figure things out. She is given a journal where she writes her hurt and heart out, confronts her demons and starts her road to recovery. Talk about a beautiful ending! 

3 thoughts on “Generational trauma & domestic abuse in The Bread the Devil Knead by Lisa Allen-Agostini: A review

Leave a Reply

Back to top
%d bloggers like this: