Set across Haiti, UK, USA and Ghana, the novel tells the story of three young women on the verge of adulthood. Laure is a bright, beautiful Haitian girl, who although abandoned by her mother, lives a life of privilege with her grandmother. Her best friend, Améline, also resides in the family home and is referred to as the 'rest avec, having to combine the role of play friend with housekeeper. The third central character, Melanie, is the daughter of a rock star, who feels ignored by parents who are immature and self indulgent. Through a series of events the lives of all three young women become inextricably linked.
I must admit at 500 pages long I was slightly put off by the length of this book. Admittedly the first couple of chapters aren't particularly fast, and set against the balmy Haitian sun - the pace seems even slower. But as the lives of the women begin to unfold, the story quickly gains momentum peaking into 'can't-put-down' status. Having to navigate through life without motherly guidance, all three young women awkwardly stumble through the messy business of becoming a woman. Dealing with unscrupulous characters, drug abuse, the porn industry, secrecy, and blackmail - and that's just for starters. But after a few hard knocks and some pretty unfortunate life lessons they eventually reach a place of understanding. 'Bitter Chocolate' is cautionary without being preachy, the underlying message being your life is not determined by what you were born into, but the choices you make.
Lokko is a stunning writer. People, emotions and places are painted vividly, allowing you to feel as if you are there, all up in the action. A book-loving friend of mine borrowed my copy and wasn't as impressed, criticising it for being a bit too unrealistic and predictable. And yes, I'll admit some of the situations are a bit soap opera esq, but let's face it - so is life. Overall I'd say it's a thoroughly good read, and please, don't be put off by the size, you'll whizz through the whole thing in a couple of days, and then feel annoyed at yourself for reading it so quickly.