Picks and Pans Review: This Bitter Earth
Her name is Sugar Lacey, but her life is bittersweet. McFadden's 2000 debut novel, Sugar, introduced this unloved black girl from 1940s Arkansas who was raised in a bordello and at 15 became a prostitute. Now it's 1965: The adult Sugar, hurt but healing, seeks redemption and self-knowledge by unearthing long-held family secrets and helping her madam's teenage granddaughter kick a heroin habit.
Like the Dinah Washington song its title evokes, Earth tells a brutal blues tale of salvation and adds to it a satisfying subplot of revenge. Though short on surprises, McFadden's sensuous prose and folk wisdom conjure a memorable character with complexity and grace. (Dutton, $23.95)
Bottom Line: Sweet and tart