Review of Sugar by Bernice L. McFadden

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review of Sugar by Bernice L. McFaddenSugar by Bernice L. McFadden
Published by Penguin on 2001-01-02
Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thrillers
Pages: 240
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

"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 WatersGlorious, and This Bitter Earth.

When Sugar Lacey comes to the small town of Bigelow in Arkansas, life is shaken up. Women eye her with disdain, men eye her with lust. This is the basis of the novel Sugar by Bernice L. McFadden. Sugar begins with a bang, immediately we are drawn in with a murder of a little girl. Emotion is ripe and we see how the murder takes a toll on Pearl Taylor, the mother of the victim. Sugar by Bernice L. McFadden then flashes forward fifteen years, when the lives of Sugar Lacey and Pearl Taylor will intertwine over sweet potato pie.

Sugar by Bernice L. McFadden weaves friendship, sexuality, and small-town minds effortlessly. The friendship between Pearl and Sugar is unlikely, but I felt it worked well within the novel. Pearl is an awesome woman. She defies her friends, which reminded me of hens, to form a friendship with Sugar, regardless of her disapproval of Sugar’s profession. The relationship between Sugar and Pearl is definitely not all give and take. Rather, both women give something of themselves. Pearl treats Sugar like a family member, giving her warmth that she’s never really experienced.

I loved that Sugar by Bernice L. McFadden didn’t dance around sexuality. The men of the book, unfortunately, cheat on their wives with Sugar, as she IS a lady of the night after all and the guys do pay her to get laid.The women of town treat sex as though it is a dirty act. They are inhibited, unlike Sugar. Pearl, too, until she sort of has this sexual awakening, in which she’s all girllll I am hot stuff, and really takes control of the bedroom. I loved it. I loved that Pearl had an open mind and didn’t take part in the slut-shaming with her friends.

Sugar Lacey, on the other hand, I was conflicted towards. I wanted her to be happy, however, it’s hard for me to approve of her lifestyle. I think tempting men to cheat is reprehensible. However, not all of the blame lies on her shoulders, as the men are the ones paying to do the dirty, therefore, I think they deserve more blame than Sugar. It’s an interesting thought Sugar by Bernice L. McFadden brings out, how it seems the other woman is always the one faulted for breaking up a relationship and not the man. Clearly, there is some sort of double standard at work.

I enjoyed Sugar by Bernice L. McFadden and it definitely gave me food for thought, especially in relation to sexuality within the constructs of a small southern town.

Other Reviews of Sugar by Bernice L. McFadden:

A Striped Armchair
The Book Nest
Brown Girl Speaks

About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I should read Sugar. Don't know why I haven't I think I would really enjoy.

    I loved one of McFadden's other novels The Warmest December.

    I can't wait to read her novel Glorious

  2. Someone else reviewed this book just the other day, I think! It sounds like one I would be interested in, so I'll keep my eye out.

  3. April (BooksandWine) says

    Guys, Sugar is really enjoyable. I totally recommend you get your hands on it.

  4. Just discovered your blog. Enjoyed the review and especially like that you recommend other books beneath–very cool idea.

  5. I don't know why, but I had quite a bit of trouble reading this book. Maybe I'm just to skittish about sexuality.

  6. Hey April!
    You blog is lookind AMAZING! For some weird reason I haven't been here for awhile! WHAT THE…

    ANYway, another reason, yet again, to love the Blog Hop.

    I am now officially a follower so I will never lose you again. :0)

  7. "It's an interesting thought this novel brings out, how it seems the other woman is always the one faulted for breaking up a relationship and not the man."

    So true, and SO upsetting. It sounds like this book raises a lot of important questions – I'll definitely keep an eye out for it.


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