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Queen Sugar: A Novel Hardcover – February 6, 2014

4.1 out of 5 stars 214 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Already a widow raising an 11-year-old daughter, Charley Bordelon is further disoriented by the death of her adoring father. He has left her an 800-acre sugarcane field in their native Louisiana, attaching clear restrictions that she must revive the farm or give it to charity, with no option to sell the farm or share it with her estranged half brother, Ralph Angel. So Charley and her reluctant daughter, Micah, relocate from L.A. to rural Louisiana, welcomed into the bosom of the family by her grandmother, Miss Honey. But they walk into old family tensions when Ralph Angel and his 6-year-old son, Blue, come for an extended stay. Charley arrives just in time for the growing season, facing dilapidated fields desperately in need of care. As a citified black woman with no experience in farming, can she make a go of it as a sugarcane farmer in an area that clings to privileges afforded to whites, males, and the wealthy? In alternating chapters, Baszile shows the separate paths that lead Charley and Ralph Angel back home in this exploration of family ties and disconnections. --Vanessa Bush


“In Queen Sugar, two bulwarks of American literature—Southern fiction and the transformational journey—are given a fresh take by talented first time novelist Natalie Baszile . . . [the novel] is a sensory experience, a tableau vivant that Baszile skillfully paints in a palette simultaneously subtle and bold. Queen Sugar is a bright and enticing reminder that, sometimes, you can go home.”
O Magazine

“A nuanced evocation of contemporary black life.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Reading this book is inhabiting, briefly, the backbreaking and brutal yet rewarding life that is sugarcane farming.... Queen Sugar is an impressive debut from a talented writer and a fascinating look into the world of the contemporary South.”—Washington Independent Review of Books
“Baszile infuses her novel with flickers of poetic detail and spot-on observations... Queen Sugar gets props for its charming characters and enthralling, fully realized setting.”—The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"In her heartfelt and beautiful debut novel, Natalie Baszile tells a tale of the South that is as deeply rooted in time and place as it is universal. How do we make sense of family? Loss? The legacies passed down to us? These are the questions that Charley, a young widowed mother, grapples with, as she tries to save the sugarcane plantation that is her inheritance and which, unbeknownst to her, holds the answers to both her past and her future."
Ruth Ozeki, author of A Tale for the Time Being

"Natalie Baszile debuts with an irresistible tale of family, community, personal obligation, and personal reinvention. The world is full of things that keep you down and things that lift you up—Queen Sugar is about both and in approximately equal measure.  Smart and heart-felt and highly recommended."
Karen Joy FowlerNew York Times bestselling author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

"Queen Sugar is a gorgeous, moving story about what grounds us as brothers and sisters, as mothers and daughters, and all the ways we fight to save each other. Natalie Baszile’s characters put brave roots into inhospitable ground, looking for a place, a person, a community to call home. I alternately laughed and wept as they failed each other, forgave each other, lost each other, found themselves. It’s a wise, strong book, and I loved it. You will, too."
Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of Someone Else's Love Story

"After turning the last page of Queen Sugar, I already miss the gutsy, contemporary African American woman who ditches California and migrates to Louisiana to run her inherited cane farm. Natalie Baszile is a fresh, new voice that resists all Southern stereotypes, and delivers an authentic knock-out read."
Lalita TademyNew York Times bestselling author of Cane River and Red River

“Raw with hardship and tender with hope, Queen Sugar digs deep to the core of a courageous young widow’s life as she struggles to keep her farm in Louisiana’s sugarcane country. Natalie Baszile writes with a bold and steady hand.”
Beth HoffmanNew York Times bestselling author of Looking for Me and Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

"Queen Sugar is a page-turning, heart-breaking novel of the new south, where the past is never truly past, but the future is a hot, bright promise. This is a story of family and the healing power of our connections—to each other, and to the rich land beneath our feet."
Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow

“Natalie Baszile’s Queen Sugar is a sweeping, beautifully wrought, and uniquely American story that brings to vibrant life the little known world of Louisiana’s sugarcane country. I fell in love with Charley Bordelon—her huge heart, her kindness, her courage, and her resilience. A lyrical and page-turning meditation on second chances, reinvention, family, and race, Queen Sugar casts quite a spell.”
Melanie Gideon, author of The Slippery Year and Wife 22

"Queen Sugar is an accomplished, confident narrative that announces the arrival of a writer to watch."
Krys Lee, author of Drifting House

“Gorgeous . . . an exquisitely written book about the joys and sorrows of family, love, endurance, and hard work.”
Peter Orner, author of Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge

“Baszile, whose father arrived in California from Louisiana in 1954, knows the region well, and "Queen Sugar" yields a moving tale of contemporary Southern life.” San Jose Mercury News

“The confidence and intimacy of Queen Sugar come from its parallels with the author’s life story.... Details gleaned through those experiences help create a story where readers can feel the aching muscles and sweat-drenched shirts... With such a captivating first novel, Baszile has established herself as a bright new author worth keeping an eye on.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

 “Baszile’s writing style flows easily, and there are beautiful passages around every corner.... a welcome addition to the fellowship of American authors”—The Missourian

“Baszile is an eloquent and descriptive writer. Her prose on the Southern landscape and sugarcane farms are worth reading alone.... This is a unique and heartbreaking tale of family members who come from entirely different worlds and reunite to provide for one another. It artfully captures the timelessness of the struggle to survive, the virtues of perseverance, and the undying bonds of blood.” —Alexandra Chang, Bust Magazine
“Baszile has a great story to tell, and she does it with equal parts charm, perception, and suspense.”—Country Roads Magazine --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 372 pages
  • Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books; 1st edition (February 6, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670026131
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670026135
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (214 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #268,970 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
When her father dies, Charley Bordelon is surprised to inherit an 800 acre sugarcane plantation in Louisiana. She knows nothing about raising sugarcane. Her father wasn't a farmer either, but he mortgaged everything he had to buy these 800 acres.

Charley is a widow with a preteen daughter. She badly needs a fresh start and the only option is the sugarcane plantation. She settles in with her delightful grandmother, Miss Honey, and her other relatives. The one blot on the horizon is her half-brother. He has been in trouble most of his life; now he's back, and he resents that Charley got the whole inheritance.

Learning the sugarcane business isn't easy, particularly since no one wants to help her. Charley struggles against the odds and the desire to give up, but eventually finds help and a surprising romance.

The unusual characters and the lovely setting make this book a delight to read. I enjoyed the descriptions of farm life, but they could be tedious to someone with no background in farming. I also found the plot rather slow even when Charley finds romance. She does a great deal of talking to herself about her troubles and it becomes repetitious. However, the setting and characters make it worth the read.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.
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OK, so this is a first for me. I have never written a review before. I just finished the book and absolutely loved it! The story, the characters, the themes, the details and the descriptive imagery are all wonderful. I was thoroughly entertained and really did not want to put the book down. I read a lot and this book is by far my favorite in quite awhile. I recommending it to all my friends. I really can see the story as a movie as well. I have even fantasized about the actors and actresses who might be great in the character roles. I look forward to more stories from Natalie Baszile!
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I read this atmospheric novel of the Louisiana sugar cane farmers life in one sitting. It was the perfect book to curl up with on a rainy day. I could not put it down. Wish it was another 300 pages!
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By GoldenGirl on February 16, 2014
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The author allows us to see and feel the emotions that run through families during turbulent times. Many families have a Ralph Angel, just as we also have inheritances that are gifts and seeming curses all at the same time.
Great writing!
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I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. A rich and relatable story filled with fragile hope in the face of, what appears to be an impossible task, true grit and very complicated relationships.

A couple of loose ends left me wondering, like: the role of the natural healer (why? and what for?) and what became of "Miss Honey" once proven painfully wrong about Ralph Angel. These characters burn bright (in the case of the natural healer, for only half a page), then seem to extinguish without clear resolution. Others left me confused: Was "Hollywood" the product of in-breeding, thus his seeming "off"? And even in a fictional world amassing the kind of money capable of saving a farm by with one-man lawn mowing operation seemed fantastic.

Still, I cheered for the main character throughout, and connected with her struggles and pain. I think most people know or know of a "Charly" and "Ralp Angel."
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Format: Hardcover
I moved to New Iberia, Louisiana as a young bride. We built our home on Bayou Teche. The author writes about the sights, sounds and smells of the seasons. She writes how the sunlight is different in October from the summer. The story is wrapped around a mother and her daughter that grabbed my heart.
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Queen Sugar is a powerful novel that is saturated with the aches and pains of farming sugarcane in Louisiana.

The story began slow and a little disjointed with the two narratives being told simultaneously.

The most difficult part for me (in reading this novel) was the constant usage of agricultural terms and names of farming machinery and equipment which I felt overpowered the "nuts and bolts" (no pun intended) of the story. It was evident that either the author did EXTENSIVE research, or she had some cardinal knowledge of this industry, and wanted to share with her readers. Although it was impressive, it was a lot to absorb within the context of the plot.

With that said, there were several story lines (two of them were very similar) that ranged from sexism, racism, drug/alcohol abuse, and verbal/domestic violence to name a few. In addition to these topics, Natalie Baszile found an open window to add a little bit of romance and some colorful and opinionated characters named Denton, and Alison.

I really enjoyed the "pick up" of the story once the characters, Alison and Remy, were introduced. The story began to take on a NEW dimension as I became one with the prose. I began to feel the warmth of the sun on my shoulders as the workers struggled to "cut" the cane, hear the "howling" winds, and visualize the rain hitting the tin roofs. It was quite exhilarating! I started cheering for love to prevail, hoping that family bonds would mend and believing that children would begin to "behave" as children.

I would highly recommend this read - be patient, it really gets good once you get past the agricultural jargon.

I'm looking forward to the discussion on the marshy Florida Intracoastal waterway with the ladies of U.S. G.I.R.L.S book club on Saturday!!

Final rating 3.75 stars (Amazon does not allow for fractional scoring)
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