21 SUGAR STREET by Lynn Lauber


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 For her short first novel, Lauber returns to the setting and the central situation (an interracial romance) of her story collection, White Girls (l989). We are in the same small town (Union, Ohio) among the same characters: Loretta, the white teenager captivated by soul music and ghetto life; Luther, her black fellow student, who looks to Loretta for casual sex but finds love instead; and Luther's mother Annie, that rock of Gibraltar, who warms to Loretta as the white girl hungers for her life-stories. But while the story collection was tightly focused through Loretta's narration, here Lauber reworks her material using multiple viewpoints. In addition to those of Loretta, Luther, and Annie, we have Junior Johnson, the black undertaker, who disowns daughter Elaine after she marries the unemployed Luther; Loretta's kid brother Louis, the natural conformist, who watches as Loretta is sent to a school for unwed mothers after Luther impregnates her; and Marcia Milner, the troubled white woman who adopts Loretta's baby but has no feeling for the child and eventually kills herself, ending up in Junior's funeral parlor. Years later, the middle-aged Louis describes a schmaltzy reconciliation of the survivors, a perfect Hollywood rainbow. Yet this journey through five households, in which peace is first shattered, then restored, counts for nothing beside Loretta's original journey--in the earlier book--across the color line to Annie's home on Sugar Street. That was felt from the inside, unlike the spiritual contortions of lost souls like the undertaker and the adoptive mother. More is less. Disappointing.

Pub Date: April 26th, 1993
ISBN: 0-393-03449-6
Page count: 196pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1993