Friday, March 27, 2009

Book Review: The Sugar Queen, by Sarah Addison Allen

Synopsis from bn.com:

In this irresistible novel, Sarah Addison Allen, author of the New York Times bestselling debut, Garden Spells, tells the tale of a young woman whose family secrets—and secret passions—are about to change her life forever.

Josey Cirrini is sure of three things: winter is her favorite season, she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night…. Until she finds her closet harboring Della Lee Baker, a local waitress who is one part nemesis—and two parts fairy godmother. With Della Lee’s tough love, Josey’s narrow existence quickly expands. She even bonds with Chloe Finley, a young woman who is hounded by books that inexplicably appear when she needs them—and who has a close connection to Josey’s longtime crush. Soon Josey is living in a world where the color red has startling powers, and passion can make eggs fry in their cartons. And that’s just for starters.

Brimming with warmth, wit, and a sprinkling of magic, here is a spellbinding tale of friendship, love—and the enchanting possibilities of every new day.

For the record, I just finished this book on Wednesday evening and I don't remember anything about eggs frying in their cartons. But, no matter ... with all the magical mystery that is The Sugar Queen, it's certainly quite possible.

Folks who enjoyed Sarah Addison Allen's debut novel Garden Spells (which I review briefly here) will find The Sugar Queen to be similar. Both are set in a small North Carolina town, quirky characters abound, food is prevalent, and there's an element of magical realism and fairy-tale woven throughout the story. In the beginning of the novel, these similarities kind of bothered me; I felt as if I was re-reading Garden Spells.

Josey's story (and that of the other supporting characters) took over and made those distractions less so. Every character in The Sugar Queen has a secret, and all kinds of secrets (infidelity, unrequited love, shame) are being hidden in the figurative closets of Bald Slope, NC. Addison Allen's characters are well-developed and ones that the reader cares about. The writing is well-done, and the plot moves along nicely - particularly towards the ending, when the book truly becomes a page turner. Others reviews that I've read mention that they predicted the ending; I had an idea about part of it, but as I read, it wasn't enough of an overbearing thought to spoil the ending for me - which I also liked. It would have been easy for the ending to be trite and contrived, but it didn't seem so to me.

I found myself enjoying this novel, both the audio and the print version. (I'm guessing I listened to approximately 3/4 of the book, then read the rest.) Karen White's narration on the audio is excellent. This is a fast read and an enjoyable one for fans of Southern fiction with a dash of magical realism.

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2 comments:

Karen H. said...

Good review. I've been wanting to read Allen's first book.

Betty and Boo's Mommy said...

Thanks, Karen!