This Bitter Earth
The Story of Sugar Lacey, a Novel
by Bernice McFadden
Terry McMillan hailed Sugar as "one of the most compelling and thought-provoking novels I've read in years." Toni Morrison called The Warmest December, her second novel, "riveting...searing and expertly imagined."
This Bitter Earth picks up where Sugar left offon the dirt road leading to Sugar's childhood home in Short Junction, Arkansas. Here, Sugar hears a shocking revelation about unrequited love, and about one man's hatredand the black magic that has cursed generations. Her travels take Sugar to St. Louis, where the bonds of an old friendship test the limits of her courage and compassionand the sacrifices she will make for another young woman in desperate need of a caring friend.
Filled with the lyrical language, haunting imagery, and compelling voice that imbued Sugar with its power and grace, This Bitter Earth is a novel about the inexorable power the past exerts over us and our ability to triumph over adversity and sorrow. Earthy and richly evocative, it is a testament to the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.
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1. What is the significance of the title, This Bitter Earth?
2. The novel is told in third person rather then first person narrative. What does this form of narration achieve? How would it have been different had Sugar or another character told the story?
3. Both Sugar and Pearl are haunted by the memory of Jude. Why is it that Jude comes to them in their dreams?
4. Why does Sugar want to die after Pearl and Joe try so hard to save her? What makes her finally decide to live?
5. Why is it that Sugar never gives up on helping Mercy? Even during those times that Sugar wants to leave, she finds she cannot. Why do you think this is?
6. When Mercy is going through withdrawal, she is depicted as numb and mute. It is also mentioned that Mercy has forgotten aspects of her past. Why is it that JJ (Joe Jr.) seems so familiar to her? What reason or reasons lie behind this connection?
7. Joe holds back from Pearl two significant secrets. What does Joe hope to achieve by not telling them to Pearl? Is he successful?
8. The first time that Sugar is in town, the citizens chastise her for her chosen lifestyle, never welcoming her to their little town. Why is it that when they hear her sing they change their prospective of her? Does the fact that they like her voice erase her past?
9. During the fourteen days of rain, when all the bodies were raising from the grave sites, why does it not bother Pearl to see her daughter's body in front of their house?
10. Grace and her mother both seek to marry men with money. How does a mother justify telling her daughter to marry for money rather then love?
11. Grace tries very hard to hide the fact that she is from the south, going so far as to lose her accent and telling others that she was born and raised in New York City. What is it that makes Grace so ashamed to admit her southern heritage?
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"McFadden's sensuous prose and folk wisdom conjure a memorable character with complexity and grace."
"At times dark and haunting but ultimately hopeful, This Bitter Earth is a riveting tale of courage and triumph."
Heart & Soul