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This Bitter Earth Paperback – December 31, 2002


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a heartfelt but lackluster sequel to her critically acclaimed debut, Sugar, McFadden follows Sugar as she attempts to heal her physical and emotional wounds. In the winter of 1955, Sugar Lacey leaves her man, the evil Lappy Clayton, in Bigelow, Ark., to return to Short Junction only 10 miles, but a world away. The Lacey sisters, who raised Sugar from birth and employed her in their house of ill repute, welcome her back and answer her questions about her parents. When all three sisters die, Sugar receives her inheritance, and would live comfortably if not for the ghosts of the past that won't leave her in peace. Finally, in 1965, she is drawn to St. Louis to seek out her old friend Mary. Appalled to discover that Mary's home has become a heroin den and her granddaughter a junkie, Sugar bravely and selflessly tries to save the young girl. This ordeal and a subsequent bus trip to Bigelow featuring a harrowing episode of racial intimidation are the best scenes in the novel as McFadden captures the horrors of drug addiction and the zeitgeist of a racist South. Unfortunately, the rest of the novel is too full of Sugar's victimization: suffering the pain of her past, she lacks much of the fiery fighting spirit that made her appealing and sympathetic in the first novel. Agent, James Vines. (Feb.)Forecast: Bookstores should not discount a built-in audience and praise for McFadden's past work from such notables as Toni Morrison and Terry McMillan.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In this sequel, the heroine of Sugar, McFadden's debut best seller, learns about her past.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (December 31, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452283817
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452283817
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (139 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am mother, daughter, sister and friend. All I've ever wanted was to be happy. Writing makes me happy.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Dawn R Reeves on February 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Sugar Lacey left Bigelow, Arkansas ten years ago with a secret and to confront those that she felt had betrayed her. With a heavy heart and a wounded body, Sugar traveled to Short Junction, Arkansas and St. Louis in search of answers. When she left Bigelow she left clues for those that mattered. Were those clues found? Examining her trials and tribulations that she was born into, Sugar redeemed herself by nurturing a young girl just as she had been nurtured. The only thing left for Sugar to do was to return to Bigelow with the hope of finding peace within.
This Bitter Earth ties together the unanswered questions left behind with the ending of Sugar. The spirit of Sugar, Pearl and Joe remain vivid and with the additional information obtained about the other characters and their lives, the reader is brought full circled leaving an understanding of all that This Bitter Earth has to offer.
This Bitter Earth is told in a fluid and surreal language that will leave you mesmerized. The imagery used in the prose will take you within the Taylor home, the juke joint, down the dirt roads and through the fields of this rural town. Popular belief is that most sequels don't measure up to their predecessors but This Bitter Earth is just as sweet as Sugar.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A. Craig on June 17, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I loved the book, Sugar. It was really off the charts for me. I felt that I knew the main character and understood how she came to be and who she was. There was a plot that really moved forward and progressed.
This Bitter Earth was truly a postscript of Sugar. It was all about filling in the blanks and tying up loose ends from the first book. So in a sense, nothing new really happened. Everywhere Sugar went was just retracing her steps from the first book. The question running through my mind was not "what is going to happen next", but "what is she going to find out or hear next"? Pretty much all of the characters and locations were the same. This Bitter Earth seemed to be more about people around Sugar and historical information, as opposed to being about Sugar herself. All of the characters were oddly interrelated, and after a while that good tiring. It seemed a little pat and almost lazy. Why keep using the same character over and over? Or in other words - was Lappy Clayton the ONLY bad guy in Arkansas?
I finished reading This Bitter Earth in one day, so it definitely held my attention. However, I just felt like something was missing. It just was not as satisfying as Sugar. It was like a meal that has a seasoning or ingredient missing that you can't put your finger on. The meal is okay, and you eat all of it. But it's not "slap yo mama" good. Bernice did not put her foot in this one, if you know what I mean.
That being said, there were some great scenes in the book. When Sugar left Bigelow and went to Short Junction, I felt like I walked that road with her and showed up on the Lacey porch with her. I was right in the middle of everything that happened.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Gayle Jackson Sloan on February 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
"This Bitter Earth" picks up almost right where "Sugar" ends. Considering I have finished both books in the same week, I'm going to try to not get them confused!!
If you read "Sugar," then you MUST read TBE. TBE explains many things that occurred in "Sugar."
Sugar Lacey has been running from or ignoring the truth about her life for more years than she'd like to remember. However, the time has come, she realizes, to turn around and face those truths that she has been running from. To do that, she must go back to the beginning and places she thought she had long since left behind her. When Sugar returns to Short Junction and the house where she was raised, she learns some shocking secrets. From Short Junction, her journey to discovery leads her back to St. Louis. What she finds there is enough to tempt her to run again, but she stays for a while in an effort to help a young girl who can no longer help herself. Sugar decides to return to Bigelow as part of her plan to save the girl who doesn't want anyone's help. In the process, Sugar, who sometimes feels that she is walking on just this side of madness, may finally find the peace she has always craved but felt she never deserved.
Ms. McFadden has written a book that so completely draws you in, that I highly recommend reading it on a weekend when you can sit down and not have to worry about getting up until you are finished. Like a fine wine that lingers on the tongue, long after it is gone, so will this story linger in your mind. I was blown completely away with this book. Having to interrupt my reading by something as mundane as going to work frustrated me to no end. And while I couldn't wait to finish the book, I was saddened when I did. I wanted to know what happened AFTER.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Priscilla C. Johnson (Cilla) on February 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
If you have read "Sugar" then you will love "This Bitter Earth". Sugar Lacey is haunted by a past that she choses not to face. She runs from it but it only causes her more pain and confusion. In "This Bitter Earth", Sugar travels back to places like Short Junction and St. Louis to finally face her demons. She also has to deal with the her inner voice who will not let go of the fact that "Lappy Did It" and the haunting images of Jude. It is not just Sugar story anymore. This Bitter Earth is the story of the Lacey Sisters, Pearl, Joe, JJ, and Seth, who all have to face their fears and the two things that has managerd to tie them all together. Once you have reached the end, you will be able to take a breath.
This Bitter Earth is filled with lyrical, yet haunting imagery that captures you from the beginning of the book. You will not put it down.
I recently met Ms. McFadden, at Sibanye Books, and she has a wonderful spirit. Her reaccount of how Sugar came to life will want you craving more.
Ms. McFadden, I look forward to your next book.
Peace and Blessing!
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