McFadden, Bernice L. Sugar: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780452282209

Sugar: A Novel

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9780452282209: Sugar: A Novel

"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.  McFadden is the author of the novels Gathering of Waters, Glorious, and This Bitter Earth

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Review:

Bernice L. McFadden's first novel begins with the brief, poetic description of a crime so startling that the reader is helplessly drawn in, as if a bright red door stood ajar on a bleak and forbidding house. Pearl Taylor's daughter, Jude, has been found murdered and mutilated near a field at the edge of town. "The murder had white man written all over it," writes McFadden. "But no one would say it above a whisper. It was 1940. It was Bigelow, Arkansas. It was a black child. Need any more be said?" In the years that follow, Pearl catches sight of Jude in so many strangers that when Sugar Lacey comes to town and sets up her unwholesome "business" in the house next door, she doesn't know whether to believe what she sees in Sugar's face: a striking similarity to Jude, dead 15 years. In her sedate but supple prose--rising at times to a light, unforced lyricism in the description of landscape or character--the author perfectly renders the closed and protective society of a small Southern town, the superstitions, gossip, and prying. Although the men of Bigelow are happy enough to have Sugar around, the women do their best to drive her off. Only Pearl is drawn to Sugar, managing to look beyond the rumors surrounding her new neighbor, whose dismal life, she tells Pearl, "had no crossroads." Eventually Pearl shows Sugar the ballerina-topped jewelry box in which she keeps snapshots of her dead daughter.

Sugar lifted the lid and saw herself staring back at her. She jerked as if struck. Her hands were shaking as she lifted the first of many pictures from the box. Jude rolling in the grass, Jude swimming in the lake, Jude sleeping, Jude laughing. Sugar's head was swimming. If someone had brought these pictures to her and said, 'Here you are in the life you can't recall,' she would have believed every word of it and ignored the slight differences that remained between Jude and herself. Jude's smaller nose and thinner lips, her rounder eyes and fuller brow. But the smile was the same; sure and solid. Sugar knew that smile, it was her own.
Slowly, the secret connections between Jude and Sugar unfold against a backdrop of suspense and the return of violence. This is an ambitious and feeling debut from a promising writer. --Regina Marler

From the Author:

Q> Tell us about your upbringing in the South. Are elements reflected in the story? Are any of the characters based on people you know?

While I wasn't raised in the South, my mother was. The stories she's shared with me over the years have been so vivid I guess that I've adopted the settings into my own stories. Yes, I think characteristics of people that are close to me have seeped into my characters.

Q> How did your family's tradition of storytelling influence your writing?

A very big influence. The stories shared around the table during a holiday meal were the highlight of the gathering and I so looked forward to hearing them over and over again. I want my stories to have the same effect - stories that people will always want to return to time and time again.

Q> The novel is primarily about Sugar and Pearl, with the male characters taking a back seat to the female characters. And yet the story closes with a scene that has Joe as the focus. Why did you choose not to end the story with either Sugar or Pearl actually in the scene?

Sugar's life was one big circle - every step forward put her closer to where she'd already been so it seemed only right that the story should end with a focus on Joe because he was the father to both Jude and Sugar, completing the circle.

Q> As the mother of a daughter, was it difficult for you to write about Jude's murder? Why did you choose to maximize the horror of Jude's death by having the killer desecrate her body?

Fortunately it was not difficult to put that scene down on paper, although now when I go back to read it, it is a bit unnerving. The desecration was not a conscious choice, but exactly what I saw unfolding before me.

Q> Why did you choose to set the novel in the 1940s and 1950s instead of the present day?

My stories come to me as visions in bits and pieces - and I saw the 40's & 50's.

Q> Sugar and Pearl's friendship forms the basis of the novel. How important are friendships in women's lives?

I take my relationships with women very seriously. I come from a family of women, so my respect for them is quite extraordinary. Friendships between women are sacred because we understand and feel for each other on levels that men are just not equipped to do.

Q> In the beginning of the book there is a quote by Sarah Miles: "There's a little bit of hooker in every woman. A little bit of hooker and a little bit of God." Why did you choose to use this quote? How do you think it relates to the story?

That quote caught the whole essence of Sugar and Pearl. It speaks to the story and the good and not so good we all have inside of us.

Q> This Bitter Earth, the sequel to Sugar, has recently been published. What can you tell us about it?

TBE is Sugar's continuing story, but it's also about a lot of the other characters that had to take a back seat in Sugar. TBE will delve further into Sugar's past as well as explain the effects her prescence and consquent departure in Bigelow had on the Taylor's as well as the town residents.

Q> Are you working on a new novel?

Yes, I'm working on a story that will examine why some people love the way they do and while still others are unable to love at all.

Q>:What writers do you admire? Have any of them influenced your work?

I have great respect and admiration for Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, J. California Cooper and Marita Golden. They have written stories that I return to time and time again for encouragement and guidance whenever I feel I've lost my way in my own stories.

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Book Description Plume, 2001. Book Condition: New. Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service! Summary: Sugar, a young prostitute arrives in Bigelow, Arkansas, to start her life over, far from her haunting past. She moves in next door to Pearl, who is still grieving for her daughter, murdered 15 years before. Over sweet-potato pie, an unlikely friendship begins. Bookseller Inventory # ABE_book_new_0452282209

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2001. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reissue. 198 x 135 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Strong and folksy storytelling.think Zora Neale Hurston.Sugar speaks of what is real. --The Dallas Morning NewsFrom 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. McFadden is the author of the novels Gathering of Waters, Glorious, and This Bitter Earth. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780452282209

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2001. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reissue. 198 x 135 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Strong and folksy storytelling.think Zora Neale Hurston.Sugar speaks of what is real. --The Dallas Morning NewsFrom 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. McFadden is the author of the novels Gathering of Waters, Glorious, and This Bitter Earth. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780452282209

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