In October of last year author Bernice L. McFadden set in motion a plan to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the publication of her debut novel Sugar. The publication anniversary was January 9, 2010. I’m not sure if she reached her mark, but I do know that she sparked a renewed interest in her work.
As I write this review almost a year later, I am apologetic because I’m not sure when I first noticed the posting and I unfortunately did not read it well because I thought it was a year long campaign. That being said, if you have not read Sugar, please do so. Why you ask? Well continue to read and I’ll give you what I believe are a few good reasons.
Set in rural Arkansas in the 1950s, Sugar is a story of friendship, acceptance and the love that must exist for the aforementioned to thrive.
When Sugar Lacey arrives in the sleepy town of Bigelow, Arkansas heads turn and tongues begin to wag. You see Sugar is not like the women of this small town. She is worldly, wears vibrant colors from head to toe and the “good” women who reside in this town see her as nothing but trouble. Based purely on what they see, the women have labeled her and while the label may not be far from the truth a “welcoming committee” is not on the horizon.
The lone dissenter in town is Pearl Taylor, Sugar’s neighbor on Grove Street. While Pearl is curious about the comings and goings of her new neighbor in #10, she has not turned a cold shoulder. Pearl feels a connection to this woman, but can’t quite put her finger on why.
McFadden does a wonderful job of delving into the various characters and weaving a tale that is so real that you can imagine your grandmother telling this story. By shifting between characters and telling the story from their point of view, McFadden invites the reader into Bigelow and the friendship that develops between Sugar and Pearl.
Pearl works to tame Sugar while the younger woman attempts to add some spice to the sadness that she sees permeating the soul of her neighbor. With a supporting cast of characters including Pearl’s husband Joe and her overly critical friends, McFadden’s prose takes you into the depths of Bigelow. You become the new neighbor watching in on the lives of these characters. McFadden adds just a hint of suspense and wonder that keeps you turning the pages. The drama unfolds so crisply that when it all comes together you’re left shaking your head saying “You’ve got to be kidding me, or better yet ‘Girl shut yo’ mouth'”
So if you’re not familiar with Bernice McFadden, make today the day that you change that and go pick up a copy of Sugar. While you’re at it, pick up This Bitter Earth, a sequel to Sugar and Glorious, McFadden’s latest novel released this year.
The not so flattering photo above is of me holding a copy of Sugar, which was one of the requests of McFadden to help spread the word about the 10th Anniversary. As stated above I blew the whole concept, but I hope that you will stop here to learn more about this very inspirational and down to earth author.