Queen Sugar: A story of risks

Queen SugarQueen Sugar by Natalie Baszile

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For the past several years I’ve been primarily focused on reading for young people, but every now and then a book’s premise grabs me and I choose to read it just for me, not for my students. That said, I believe I could recommend this to middle school students who are looking for the emotional depth this book provides.
Queen Sugar captured me from the first page, as I traveled along with Charley Bordelon into her new life.
What was it that grabbed me, that stuck with me?
First, it was Charley, her determination to fulfill her father’s wishes, to make this sugarcane plantation he left her pay, even though she’s a black woman trying to break into a world ruled by white men with no sympathy and in some cases, no scruples.
It was the description of the place, the atmosphere, the heat and the sweat. I could feel the weariness the characters experienced. I could feel Charley’s fear when things were looking their darkest.
At times through the book, I struggled with how easily Charley left her eleven-year -old daughter Micah to her own devices under the care of Miss Honey, Charley’s opinionated grandmother. I got frustrated with her ability to shut out everything but the fact of the farm. And yet we see that aspect of the story pitched just right, in the end, and this, too, has stuck with me. I could Micah finding her own way and her own purpose, just as Charley struggled with the hardships she faced.
Reviving this neglected burden of a farm was only part of it. Welcoming an estranged and volatile brother into their home and trying to trust him again took a toll on Charley when she’d nothing extra to give, and he only knew how to take.
As the story’s challenges, tragedies and tender surprises unfolded, I found myself on the edge of my seat, willing Charley to succeed with each turn of the page, and not wanting her story to be done all at once.
With vibrant believable characters both to love and hate, the last reason this one sticks with me comes to the surface. I saw a piece of myself in every person, even the ones I didn’t want to resemble, each person with their flaws and their hopes and their dreams, misdirected or not.
Queen Sugar paints a compelling and sometimes disturbing picture of a social structure deeply steeped in the history of place and tradition. At the same time, hope, loss and determination rise to the top as the things we all feel deeply as humans, no matter what paths we follow, and no matter what society might say.

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About vst3in

I am a writer, avid reader, birder, food preserver, and retired school library lady. I love colors and textures looking for them in the world around me. I'm working on a historical novel and reading lots of books for young people. I'm working to stay strong into my senior years, and I sail with my husband. This blog contains thoughts about all these things.
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