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Jenna Bush Hager picks debut novel about 'family and legacy' for February 2022

"I was on the edge of my seat. I wanted to know what was going to happen and who these characters were," said Jenna Bush Hager.
/ Source: TODAY

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After picking the dystopian novel "The School for Good Mothers" by Jessamine Chan for January, Jenna Bush Hager has a multigenerational saga for Read With Jenna readers to dive into in February.

For February 2022, Jenna Bush Hager picked "Black Cake" by Charmaine Wilkerson.

The story begins with a death. In her passing, Eleanor Bennett leaves her two children a lengthy audio recording and a slice of Black Cake made with their family’s secret recipe. With that, estranged siblings Byron and Benny untangle a web of mysteries and buried family secrets. As long-hidden truths come to light, they grapple with the impact of their mother's choices.

"There is something almost mysterious about it. I was on the edge of my seat. I wanted to know what was going to happen and who these characters were," Jenna Bush Hager told TODAY.

The novel is told over multiple generations, from shifting perspectives and diverse settings.

"I come from a multi-cultural family where probably no two people have had quite the same upbringing and I have lived in a lot of places in my life so I'm always thinking about family and identity and shifting concepts of home. Those issues definitely came into the story," Wilkerson told TODAY.

As the author's debut novel, "Black Cake" started as a short story about two Caribbean girls growing up in the 1960s.

"I'm a classic, classic case of someone who's always read, always wanted to write, but really didn't get around to it until fairly recently," said the author.

As readers dive in, they can expect to find a wide variety of important themes.

Wilkerson said, "It's really a story about the inheritance of loyalty, of betrayals, of secrets and the power of friendship, the power and possibility of second chances."

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