Friday, April 25, 2008

The Sugar Queen

Josey Cirrini is twenty seven years old and she has spent most of her life trying to make up for the bad behavior of her childhood. Even though she was a rude, mean-spirited little girl, she has grown up to be her elderly, disapproving mother's constant companion and given up all hope for a life of her own. She tries to be content with her situation, waiting eagerly for the mail to be delivered each day and dreaming secretly of traveling the world. In the small ski resort community of Bald Slope, North Carolina, her father was the hero who brought skiing and the winter tourists to the struggling town. Since his death though, the Cirrini women are just wealthy eccentrics hiding away in the garish house they inherited.

Everything changes when Josey discovers that a local waitress, Della Lee Baker, has broken into her bedroom and is holed up in her large walk-in closet. The bossy and sassy woman refuses to leave, and she's holding Josey's stash of sugary junk food hostage in exchange for her protection from an abusive boyfriend. Suddenly emboldened by Della Lee's advice and instructions, Josey finds herself sneaking out of the house at night after her mother takes her sleeping pill. She seeks out friendship with another young woman in town, Chloe Finley, and gets the courage to talk to her longtime crush, her mail carrier. Adam is hiding out in Bald Slope, but Josey sees that he has a secret and she doesn't push him to reveal it. Chloe Finley just broke up with her boyfriend Jake, but she has something bigger to hide - books seem to appear in her life whenever she needs them - and she's not sure she can keep hiding the stacks of books, or ignoring their messages. Della Lee shows no signs of leaving the bedroom closet, Josey's mother is as demanding as ever, and Josey is about to discover secrets about her family that will change her life forever.

Author Sarah Addison Allen invokes the magical elements of other sugary stories like Chocolat and Like Water for Chocolate, but with Moonpies and Bit-O-Honey and boxes of Little Debbie snack cakes. Her struggling Southern belle, Josey, will capture the heart of anyone who has ever regretted that they are remembered for their childhood misbehavior or who is trapped in repaying an impossibly large debt of gratitude. Della Lee and Chloe are certainly the most magical characters, acting as fairy godmother and friend to Josey as she emerges from her sheltered life. Josey's romance with Adam is developed slowly, but surely, amid the drama and conflict of a handful of other Bald Slope characters. For pleasure reading or a light book discussion, The Sugar Queen can open your heart to the possibility of family, friendship, and love where you least expect it.

I read an ARC from PLA. 276 pages.


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