Review: Queen Sugar

February 18, 2015 book review, Natalie Baszile, Penguin, Queen Sugar, southern lit 4

Queen Sugar

  • Written by:  Natalie Baszile
  • Published by:  Penguin, paperback January 27, 2015
  • Length:  372 pages
  • Source: Alison Law Communications in exchange for a fair and honest review


A mother-daughter story of reinvention—about an African American woman who unexpectedly inherits a sugarcane farm in Louisiana.

Why exactly her late father left her eight hundred acres of prime sugarcane land in Louisiana is as mysterious as it is generous. But for Charley Bordelon, it’s also an opportunity start over: to get away from the smog and sprawl of Los Angeles, and to grow a new life in the coffee-dark soil of the Gulf coast. Accompanied by her eleven-year-old daughter Micah, Charley arrives with high hopes and just in time for growing season.

Charley is as unfamiliar with Southern customs as she is with cane farming—which poses serious challenges both on and off the farm, especially when her farm manager leaves without warning. But, rolling up her sleeves and swallowing her pride, Charley finds the help of a colorful cast of characters—blood relatives and townspeople alike—who all become a family to her and Micah.

As the cane grows, Charley is tested by a brother who is quickly using up her patience, and it will take all of her heart to keep the sugar growing and her family intact. Queen Sugar is a story of Southern wisdom, unexpected love, and one family flourishing against all odds. (author website)

My Thoughts:  Few books draw me in like a story of the south.  Set in hot, humid, marshy, southern Louisiana, Queen Sugar pulled me in to her story of a young women battling old customs and racism in the good old boy south.  Charley has no idea what she’s gotten herself into, but as her life was not headed where she wanted, heading to a place she’d never lived seemed like an adventure.  For her father to have sold his California rental properties and bought up 800 acres of sugar cane, he must have seen some future in this.

About the same time, her half brother, Ralph Angel, was leaving Phoenix headed to Billings Montana. He’d read about Big Sky country and imagined himself and his son, Blue, fishing and living up north.  He had begun to think about a something his grandmother had told him, and he turned the car around and headed to St. Josephine Parrish Louisiana.  He’d last been there and left bad feelings behind, but he knew his grandmother loved him, and his own father had left him nothing, but given 800 acres to his half sister.

As you can imagine there is a major conflict between Ralph Angel and Charley, mostly on his part.  While Charley is hiring a farm manager and learning all about growing sugar cane, here brother is up to no good, unkind to most everyone, and struggling.

The descriptions in Queen Sugar are so beautiful, you feel that hot, thick summer heat, and smell the air of dirt, manure, and sweat.  Baszile has given her readers a story to get lost in, to become a part of.  It’s full of love, from Miss Honey, the loving grandmother, to the open giving heart that Charley shows her daughter and the people she cares for.

Earlier this month it was announced that Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVernay, the director of the movie Selma, are jointly bringing to the OWN network a TV serious based on Queen Sugar.  What a wonderful confirmation of Ms. Baszile’s beautiful work.


I highly recommend this book, just published in trade paperback.  To learn more about the author, visit her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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