Nubian Circle Book Club

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This Bitter Earth Book Review

Phyllis Rhodes

Listen to the title song and one knows this novel is appropriately titled. Read the novel and one knows an outstanding sequel has been delivered. With "This Bitter Earth", McFadden has successfully brought closure to many unanswered questions from the award winning, "Sugar". Her writing style is lyrical and engaging...I forced myself to read this book in two settings because quite simply I did not want it to end.  Others in the Nubian Circle Book Club (NCBC) read it in one sitting.  If youre wondering if it was all that, Yesit was really that good!
This Bitter Earth picks up where Sugar: a Novel left off.  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 traveld to Short Junction, Arkansas and St. Louis in search iof answers.  When she left Bigelow she left clues for those that mattered and to cleanse her soul. Examining her trials and tribulations that she was born into, Sugar redeems 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. And when she doesher arrival causes just as much excitement as the first day she strolled into town in full lady of the evening regalia ten years before, only this time theres a noticeable difference in Sugar.  Her change and arrival causes an immense chain reactionas one NCBC member noted, when the floodgate of truth started flowing, there was no stopping it.  Secrets from thirty years prior were revealed and the truth kept flowing until all loose ends were resolved.  
This Bitter Earth also ties together the unaswered questions left behind with the ending of Sugar and resonates themes of cosmic justicethose ideals that come with wisdom of the ages the concept of reciprocity, the ability to forgive, to let go and let God, to live and let live, and to thine ownself be true.  The spirit of Sugar, Pearl, and Joe remain vivid and with the additional information obtained about the other characters and their characters and their lives, the reader is brought full circle leaving an understanding of all that This Bitter Earth has to offer.

The imagery used in the prose will literally allow you to experience the novel on a deeper level.  Her writing skills take you there; a reader is able to visualize Marys former bordello, feel safe in the sanctified Taylor home, smell the cigarette smoke and spilled liquor in JJs juke joint, ride down the dusty dirt roads, and walk through the cornfields of this rural town.  This Bitter Earth is told in a fluid and surreal language that will leave you mesmerized.  She commanded an expert use of metaphors and similes to entice the reader to reader to savor every word.  Popular belief is that most sequels don't measure up to their predecessors but This Bitter Earth is just as sweet as Sugar.

The only part that was lacking in the book was the key lines in the song that summarizes Sugar's plight, "This bitter earth can be so cold. Today we're young, too soon we're old. But while a voice within me cries, I hope someone will answer my call, then this bitter earth may not be so bitter, so bitter after all." If that were included in it's entirety, then I think it would close on the link with the title.  This book was a page-turner and Ms. McFadden has moved to our "favoriet author" lists.  We simply loved it!  As mentioned, this book is a sequel, so to obtain the full experience it is highly recommended that Sugar: a Novel is read first. 

The Nubian Circle Book Club rating for This Bitter Earth is 4.75 out of 5 stars our highest rated book so far this year!  We welcome your comments and thoughts about this book review.  Please e-mail us at this address: