Published: January 2, 2001
Format: via paperback
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.
When Sugar rolls into town the whole place is turned upside down, she is a known prostitute but she moved to Bigelow to try to start over. She moves next door to Pearl who has suffered a lot in her life, to say the least. She is still mourning over the death of her daughter who was killed in the most vicious way and once she was gone Pearl just gave up. Her marriage suffered a bit but the love of her husband helped her slowly move on. With the town talking rumors about Sugar, Pearl has decided to not let that sway her opinions about her. Sugar, on the other hand, doesn't like people in her business so she isn't too keen on Pearl trying to be neighborly thinking she is just like the rest of them, judging Sugar on who she is.
With time Pearl and Sugar become friends and this friendship brings Pearl out of her shell. She is laughing and having fun again, enjoying life like she hasn't done since her daughter died. Both of them are an odd pair to the naked eye but I feel like they balance each other out. Both have experienced pain that no one could understand and I think they find comfort in that. When both are together no one is judging them and they get to be who they truly are without the thoughts of what others are thinking about them.
Both are just women who are searching for that something in life. Sugar just wants a place where she feels loved and belongs and Pearl just wants that closure and justice for her daughter. Sugar just might find that love with someone but her past is soon to rear its ugly head and that love she has for that someone is so strong she will do the unthinkable to protect him. Ironically the past is the key to her future when secrets are uncovered and we find out the missing pieces to Sugar’s life.
This is a powerful and emotional read one that will make you laugh and make you cry. Sugar’s story of how she grew up and was raised is heartbreaking. Her struggle to survive is something that only a strong person could handle and despite what others think of her Sugar is a true survivor. The fact that Sugar and Pearl were placed in each other's lives is something that only could happen on purpose. They were brought together to help each other heal and to become family. Bernice McFadden gives us characters that are raw, broken, flawed but at the same time incredibly strong. The world has given up on these women but they haven't given up on themselves and nothing is stronger than a woman who still believes she can. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who wants a great story with impactful characters.