Bernice L McFadden came on the scene in 2000 with her debut novel, Sugar, which tells the story of a woman in the late 50’s with a painful past and less-than-stellar lifestyle.
The minute Sugar arrives in the small town of Bigelow, Arkansas, the accusations and labeling begin. “Slut”, and “whore” ring out as she struts down the sidewalk on a spring day in 1955 carrying two suitcases. Sugar is, in fact, a prostitute, abandoned by her mother and raised by a group of women called the Lacey sisters.
Spell-binding, full of secrets, unspeakable traumas, ties, and friendship, I knew this would be one of those books I looked forward to reading every night before bed. Just check out McFadden’s description of Sugar on page twelve:
The storm walked into their town on two legs and spiked, red patent leather heels. She waltzed right through the main square, blond wig bouncing to the rhythm of her walk, a leopard print pocketbook slung over one shoulder, matching suitcases in each hand.
But there was something else about the main character, Sugar, that puzzled the neighbor, Pearl. (One of the other key characters of the novel) It was Sugar’s face. It reminded her of her own daughter, Jude, whose body was found on the side of a dirt road–mutilated, murdered. Jude, who at an age when most girls began to blossom, had her womanhood taken, cut from her body, and placed alongside her.
Despite the naysayers and Sugar’s cold attitude from years of being unloved in the way that all women yearn to be loved, Pearl and Sugar form a bond that goes beyond that of neighbors, a bond that neither of them quite realizes the depth of until the end.
Other books I’ve read by Bernice L McFadden:
This Bitter Earth–A must read and the sequel to Sugar. Want to know who killed Jude and scarred yet another for life? Want to know why, in the end, you’ll both loathe and empathize with this person? Care to gain insight into the past lives of Pearl, her husband, Joe, Sugar, Lappy, and even the Lacey sisters? Then you have to read This Bitter Earth.
Loving Donovan 2003