Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Sugar: A Novel Sugar: A Novel by Bernice L. McFadden

Sugar is a prostitute in rural Arkansas in the 1950s. She shocks the town of Bigelow when she moves into 10 Grove Street, upsetting the delicate balance that exists in the tight-knit community. Her pious neighbor, Pearl, has not been the same since her daughter was brutally murdered 15 years prior. But when Sugar moves in, Pearl allows herself to come out and see the world in a new way, despite her reservations about Sugar's lifestyle.

Every once in awhile I find I can't give a book a starred rating, and this is one of those times. I thought the writing was superb. The structure and arc of the plot was deliberate and meaningful. The words were sparse but effective. BUT, it's a tough read. It's very graphic, violent, and sexual with coarse language to match. Words like gritty and raw easily come to mind. It's been awhile since I read a book where I was skimming pages because of the content, but it did happen with this one.

However, there were some things I really liked about the way this book was written. This book didn't try to make these characters evolve into something that would not be true to their time, place, and circumstances. There was no sugarcoating of the way life was for African Americans in the South in the 1950s. And for Pearl and Sugar, who suffered so much tragedy in their lives, there wasn't really redemption in the typical sense of the word. The book didn't end with a nice red bow on the top. And to me, that (along with the rest of the book) felt authentic--which is exactly what I think McFadden accomplished so well with this novel. 

Also reviewed by:

Book 22 of 100 for the 100+ Reading Challenge
Book 13 of 50 for the New Author Challenge
Book 9 of 25 for the Support Your Local Library Challenge
Book 2 of 6 for the What's in a Name Challenge
Book 7 of 12 for the Historical Fiction Challenge 

Source: Library


Gerbera Daisy Mom said...

Perfect assessment. I've had several people comment that this book had "no redemption." I want to reply, "sometimes life sucks, and there isn't any." Would I want to read books like this all the time? Heavens no! But I like what you said, it felt authentic --just the way it should be.

bermudaonion said...

Wow, that sounds like such a powerful book, but also one that would be difficult to read. Fantastic review!

Missy B. said...

Great review! I felt the same way about the book "Gemma" by Meg much violence...very graphic. I didn't review it on my blog because I just couldn't find the words for it. I love Meg Tilley's writing, but the subject content was rough. Sounds like this one would be the same way.

StephTheBookworm said...

Nice review. The plot of this book sounds intriguing, but I wasn't aware that it was so graphic!

jewelknits said...

This book is on my TBR list. From yours and Gerbera Daisy's reviews, I'm prepared for an emotionally difficult read. I think I will need to sandwich it in between two "light and fast" reads, but life is indeed sometimes difficult and then more difficult. A true-to-life novel this may be, and I do look forward to reading it.

Julie @ Knitting and Sundries