In prepping for the Association of Writers and Writing Professionals Conference (a.k.a. #AWP2016), I started looking up what some of the panelists had published. My list of to-read books grew drastically, and though I will likely never make it through that whole list, a title did pop out at me.
Queen Sugar by Natalie Baszile, cast a spell over me, and apparently I’m not the only one. Oprah Winfrey loved it so much she’s picked it up for a television series.
This novel is exquisite. Baszile scoops up her readers up and sets them down in the thick, damp heat of rural Louisiana, near New Orleans. The story begins with Charley Bordelon moving from Los Angeles to her extended family in Louisiana. Her father has just died and in order to meet the terms of her father’s will, Charley will have to revive his dying sugarcane plantation. This should be no problem except that she’s a woman, she’s black, she’s broke, she knows nothing about farming, and she’s trying to raise her daughter on her own. Add to that, there’s her half-brother Ralph, a troubled man with a good heart, who believes he’s owed a piece of this promised land, too.
Baszile deftly paints her characters in a way that in your heart you feel you know these people, even if no one like them has ever graced your own life’s circles, but the wonder of this novel doesn’t stop there. Baszile brings rural Louisiana alive. You feel your t-shirt clinging to the sweat that’s running down your back, you smell the fresh-baked bread wafting over the petrichor* that lingers in the sugarcane fields. It is a gift I am exceedingly jealous of and it makes me want to work harder to craft that kind of quality from my writing.
Queen Sugar is a story of perseverance, second-chances, self-doubt, social injustice, and the power of hope.
Warning: I tried to get other things done while I read it, but I couldn’t. I had to keep reading. So make yourself comfortable and dig in. You’ll be glad you did.
Have you read Queen Sugar? Are there other novels that have pulled you in so deeply that you didn’t want to leave? Tell us about it. [Caution: no spoilers in the comments, please]
Thanks for Reading!
*petrichor: a word I adore but rarely get to use in context