"Strong and folksy storytelling...think Zora Neale Hurston...Sugar speaks of what is real." --The Dallas Morning News
From an exciting new voice in African-American contemporary fiction comes a novel Ebony praised for its "unforgettable images, unique characters, and moving story that keeps the pages turning until the end." The Chicago Defender calls Sugar "a literary explosion...McFadden reveals amazing talent." The novel opens when a young prostitute comes to Bigelow, Arkansas, to start over, far from her haunting past. Sugar moves next door to Pearl, who is still grieving for the daughter who was murdered fifteen years before. Over sweet-potato pie, an unlikely friendship begins, transforming both women's lives--and the life of an entire town.
Sugar brings a Southern African-American town vividly to life, with its flowering magnolia trees, lingering scents of jasmine and honeysuckle, and white picket fences that keep strangers out--but ignorance and superstition in. To read this novel is to take a journey through loss and suffering to a place of forgiveness, understanding, and grace.
With her eponymous anti-heroine, debut novelist McFadden breaks the mold of a venerable stereotype. Here, the hooker with a heart of gold is instead a hooker with a past so tarnished no amount of polishing can change her fate. As a baby, Sugar is abandoned by her mother and raised by a trio of prostitutes who run an Arkansas bordello. Turning tricks at age 12, and leaving town four years later to try her luck in St. Louis and then Detroit, brings more degradation, along with an ever-hardening heart. Upon her mother's death in 1955, Sugar is willed a modest home in Bigelow, Ark., but when she moves into town, and supports herself the only way she knows, the female population rises in wrath against her. All except Pearl, Sugar's next-door neighbor, who more than a decade ago lost her beloved daughter, Jude, to a vicious rapist/murderer. Pearl is struck by Sugar's uncanny likeness to Jude, and is determined to become Sugar's friend in spite of vocal disapproval. Although the two women are opposites in nearly every way, they bring out the best in each other: Sugar convinces Pearl to loosen up and accompany her to a Saturday night juke joint, and Sugar promises to go to church for two months of Sundays. Hypocritical gossip spreads among the townsfolk and tension grows when it turns out that nearly every married man in Bigelow pays a visit to Sugar, leaving the apparently frigid wives planning to run Sugar out of town. Pearl gives it her best shot to transform Sugar, but both women's painful pasts come back to haunt them in a crescendo of violent reenactments, betrayals and surprising revelations leading to a poignant, bittersweet ending. While hampered by a forced and compressed backstory, a surfeit of maudlin moments and some overwriting that is inadvertently funny, this ambitious first novel will appeal to readers who can appreciate Sugar's determination to come to terms with her past and fashion a viable future. Agent, James Vines. (Feb.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Showing 1-1 of the 1 most recent reviews
1 . A surprising and interesting storyline that is woven very nicely. It is a reminder that this is a small world.
Posted August 10, 2011 by A Reading Connoisseur , Bronx, NYThe book started out a little slow for me because I did not know the relevance of the information that I was taking in. Then I thought to myself, that this was just another sad hooker story in the south. Then I wondered where the story was going. What could I get from this story? Well, I kept reading and found out the relevance of the information given to me by following who the characters really were. The story shows us how when family members all go their separate ways into their fates, they may never know who may be sitting next to them on the bus, or in Sugar's case, living across the street. Sometimes it just might be too late to make a difference. Only one who has the ability to empathize can truly enjoy this story. The tale was woven together nicely by the author, and I did not suspect the relationship of some of the characters that I had initially dismissed. There is a whole family tree in the book, and the sad part is that none of the characters knew it. Sugar only found out part of who she really was. I enjoyed the book immensely, and recommended it to friends who enjoy good southern literature.
January 01, 2001
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