Vivid style and strong characters add credibility to an equally melodramatic follow-up.



Sugar Lacey’s melodrama continues in a sequel to the bestselling McFadden’s debut novel (Sugar, 2000).

Born out of wedlock and raised by Sara and May, two sisters who run a brothel in small-town Arkansas, Sugar returns one freezing winter night nearly dead, her belly sliced open. The stalwart sisters stitch her up without asking too many questions, but Sara, troubled by conscience, finally reveals what she knows about Sugar’s parents. Bertie Mae Brown was a shy young woman in love with Joe Taylor, an itinerant railroad worker. Their love triggered inexplicable jealousy in Shonuff Clayton, a handsome, dangerously unstable man who also happened to be Sara’s lover. What Sara doesn’t reveal: She was the one who collected a few strands of Bertie’s beautiful hair and Joe’s sweaty handkerchief for Shonuff, who then paid an obeah woman to put a curse on Bertie and Joe and all their descendants. Bertie gave birth to Sugar after Joe moved away and married Pearl Taylor. But Joe couldn’t escape the curse: his daughter Jude was murdered. Only Sugar knew who did it—and she kept her mouth shut. Although Sara and May die of natural causes during her stay with them, Sugar is nonetheless suspected of causing their deaths and decamps once more. Ten years later, in St. Louis, she finds her old friend Mary Bedford emaciated and near death, her decrepit house turned into a shooting gallery for neighborhood junkies. She ties up Mary’s addicted granddaughter Mercy in the garret of the New Hope African Methodist Church and bottle-feeds her with broth until the girl is over the worst of heroin withdrawal. They can’t stay at the church forever, however, so Sugar and Mercy return to Bigelow, hoping for help from their kinfolk. Here, the somewhat incoherent plot quickly ends: the man who murdered Jude Taylor and attacked Sara is back in town—and more than one person wants him dead.

Vivid style and strong characters add credibility to an equally melodramatic follow-up.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-525-94636-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2001

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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