by Bernice L. McFadden
First sentence: “Jude was dead.”
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I don’t quite know what to say about this.
On the one hand, it’s a really well written story about acceptance and redemption (of sorts), of prejudice in a small Southern town, of friendship.
On the other hand, it’s about sex. All kinds of sex. Violent sex. Prostitute sex. Married sex. Lustful sex. How women react to sex. How men need sex. How sex drives so much of what we do.
Sure, the book’s about a prostitute, and it starts with a violent murder/rape. But, I’ve read other books about prostitutes that were less about the sex and more about the person than this book was. It was a bit heavy on the sex for me. Perhaps McFadden meant for it to be this way; perhaps the story couldn’t have been told any other way, but I often felt that the sex was weighing down the story, not allowing the real story — the relationship between our two main characters, Pearl and Sugar, and their respective needs to heal — to come through.
And so, being distracted by all the sex, I wasn’t really able to appreciate what McFadden was attempting to say. Attempting, because I’m not sure she even succeeded without all the sex. The story was well-written — there was some beautiful descriptive language, and sometimes even the vulgarity was used effectively — but meandering. At first, I liked the flashbacks and back story, but by the end, when I as a reader knew more than the characters in the book, it felt wearisome. I wanted more of a redemptive story, and I was given the hopes of one. Then, at the last minute, it was taken away from me; Pearl was sent back into mourning, Sugar went back to her old lifestyle, and Pearl’s husband, Joe, was thrown into the metaphorical fire. Not a happy or even hopeful ending.
However, I’m sure you can chalk this one up to it being just me, for whatever reason.