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The Gospel According to Cane


After her infant son is kidnapped, Beverley Cottrell’s marriage fails. Years later, could a mysterious, lurking young man be her long-lost son?

$15.95 $11.96

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What people are saying…

Nominated for the 2014 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award in Fiction!

Publishers Weekly has named The Gospel According to Cane a 2012-13 “Notable African-American Title”

“A mother’s love is unbreakable, as Frank O’Connor Award–nominee Newland demonstrates in his latest novel . . . The storytelling is as captivating as the story itself. Newland, a Jamaican-born British writer, seamlessly integrates the joy, fear, uncertainty, and sadness . . . Newland’s prose is beautiful. His novel—part homecoming narrative in the vein of Toni Morrison’s Beloved and part haunting tale of loss similar to Ernest Gaines’s In My Father’s House—will appeal to all lovers of literary fiction.”
Library Journal

“The emotional tension is sometimes almost unbearable as a mother and son attempt to build a relationship out of their shared pain. A unique and very moving novel.”

“The characters are finely drawn with realistic ambiguity and genuinely exhibit the durability of grief and pain.”
Publishers Weekly

“Newland delivers an intense portrait of mental conflict against a gritty inner-city background. The book we are reading is Beverley Cottrell’s journal . . . This ‘journal of my pain,’ becomes a spiral of cathartic violence during which Newland deftly keeps the reader guessing.”
Kirkus Reviews

“As Bev confesses in her journals to events that make her appear less than the fragile idealist she first appeared, Newland’s tale gathers pace and tension. Violence becomes a real possibility. Happy ending or sad? Newland delivers a bit of both in this complex, cathartic portrait of an intelligent, if not always sensible woman, who refuses any longer to be defined by loss.”
Toronto Star

“What could be a simple, emotive story of grief and redemption becomes, in Newland’s hands, something more complex . . . The Gospel According to Cane is a page-turner, merging serious literary fiction with social commentary. Those interested in a fresh, vibrant take on contemporary London life should add it to their shelves.”

“Throughout The Gospel According to Cane, Mr. Newland takes on . . . the meaning of family and the risks associated with helping those in distress . . . With realism and without sanctimony, Mr. Newland successfully engages some of the most difficult questions we will ever face.”
New York Journal of Books

“A thrilling read, full of psychological tension and drama, the emotive account of one woman’s response to tragedy. Newland depicts his young characters humanely, compassionately. A stylish, confident novel.”
—Yvvette Edwards, author of A Cupboard Full of Coats

“The abduction of a child would devastate any family. But what if that child returned, many years later, a young man and a stranger? Could that be even worse? The Gospel According to Cane is a gripping novel that’s rich with both grief and great love. Courttia Newland is a fierce talent.”
—Victor LaValle, author of Big Machine

The Gospel According to Cane is a gripping tale of loss, despair, and hope of redemption. Courttia Newland continues to consolidate his reputation as a writer of depth and range.”
—Linton Kwesi Johnson, author of Mi Revalueshanary Fren

“One of Britain’s most important young black novelists . . . a truly gifted storyteller.”
Time Out London

“One of the most imaginative, free-thinking writers working today. I love his work.”
—Sarah Hall, author of The Electric Michelangelo

“Courttia Newland blazes a literary path difficult to challenge, with a style so crisp, searing, and profoundly philosophical. His Gospel According to Cane is grippingly disturbing, pulled from the depth of human despair and sheer madness, possibly best understood in the realm of psychiatry.”
The Gleaner (Jamaica)

“Courttia Newland published his first novel in 1997, at the age of 23. His early fiction featured the kind of marginalised urban youngsters now fashionably ventriloquised in novels such as Pigeon English. But while his themes have long since expanded, he also remains true to his roots. His latest novel may have a middle-class, middle-aged African-Caribbean woman at its centre, but those same disaffected teenagers hover at its periphery . . . The Gospel According to Cane . . . is a coming-of-middle-age novel, but one seasoned with style and sophistication.”
The Guardian

“This is an emotional novel; warm, prickly, tense, full of love, resentment and fear.”
The Independent (UK) (Brandon Robshaw)

“A nuanced palette of human emotion has been sensitively explored by Courttia Newland in his seven books. At the heart of his unflinching new novel is a profound examination of the causes and effects of pain.”
The Independent (UK) (Anita Sethi)


Read Courttia Newland’s contribution to “Are We Related?”

Beverley Cottrell had a dream life: a prestigious job, a beautiful husband and baby boy. This is stolen from her one winter afternoon when her son Malakay is kidnapped from a parked car. Despite a media campaign, a full police investigation, and the offer of a reward, Malakay is never found. Beverley’s marriage soon dissolves and her husband emigrates from England to the US with a new wife.

Beverley gives up her job, sells the house, and moves from the leafy suburbs to the inner city to reside in a west London housing project. She cocoons herself in grief, growing more isolated with each passing year. After two decades she gives up any hope of finding her son. She teaches children who have been expelled from school in the local community center, bright kids thrown on society’s scrap heap.

Beverley starts to believe she has finally pieced her life together—until a young man starts appearing wherever she goes. Beverley is convinced that he’s stalking her. One dark evening the stalker gets past her security door and calls through her letterbox. He tells her not to be scared. He says that he is Malakay, her son.

The Gospel According to Cane is a novel about inner-city youth in contemporary London. It’s a meditation on pain and loss, the burden of heritage, and how the past can blur the present. It’s about trust and the perceived lack of trust, disillusion, and its consequences. A world where everyone is the victim, and no one is to blame.

Click here to download a reading group guide for The Gospel According to Cane.

Listen to a radio interview with Courttia Newland on Break Thru Radio’s Book Talk with Kory French.

Book Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Published: 2/5/13
  • IBSN: 9781617751332
  • e-IBSN: 9781617751509


COURTTIA NEWLAND is the author of seven books including A River Called Time, The Gospel According to Cane, and his much-lauded debut, The Scholar. In 2016 he was awarded the Roland Rees Bursary for playwriting. As a screenwriter, he has cowritten two episodes of the Steve McQueen BBC series Small Axe. Cosmogramma is his latest book.

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