C2008 276pgs rating: 4 stars
At its heart The Sugar Queen is the telling of how the lives of Josey Cirrini, Chloe Finley and Della Lee are bound together. When Josey goes to raid her secret stash of candy one morning, she instead finds Della Lee hiding out in her closet. But Josey doesn't force Della Lee out because at her core, she's a very isolated and lonely person. Josey needs change in her life and Della Lee is the catalyst that makes it happen.
Review (be aware of spoiler potential although I'll try not to give it away)
I picked this book for my Favorite Author category. Sarah Addison Allen is a recent addition to my stable of favorites but I was very impressed by her first novel, Garden Spells. I find her particular brand of magical realism simply charming. She gives her characters traits, not abilities. It's physically a part of who they are not something they consciously choose to utilize. This book is not overly dramatic, but Chloe's book manifestation is perfect comic relief. Allen's prose is easy and it keeps me turning the pages. I care about her characters. I want them to finish the journey and I'm glad to be along for the ride. She includes just the right level of romance for me.
I kept noticing duality throughout this book. Della Lee, Chloe and Josey had physical similarities (green eyes, curly hair) and that was on purpose. But mostly I was drawn to parallel occurrences between Jake and Margaret. Both had affairs. Jake takes dinner weekly with his parents out of obligation. Likewise, Margaret has tea monthly with Livia even though the two despise each other. I'm not sure if the Jake/Margaret pairing is intentional or what that means if it is.
I also could not keep myself from comparing The Sugar Queen with Garden Spells. Another reviewer has said they should not be compared but I disagree. There are so many similarities. Food; Sisters; The creep of an ex-boyfriend who shows up at the end; women who physically burn or heat their surroundings when emotions are high, especially passion; the rich mother who controls her daughter's life. I think there's plenty of room for comparison here. In the end, while I immensely enjoyed both, I have to admit that I liked Garden Spells better. But I can't really nail down why.
"Ice queens didn't break, after all. They melted. And Marco didn't have enough warmth for that."
"He was seated at the bar, surrounded by women, women who existed only at night, thin sheets of steel, all sharp edges and shine, undulating and unsteady."
"She felt him getting nearer, felt it like a pull in the pit of her stomach. It felt like hunger but deeper, heavier. Like the best kind of expectation. Ice cream expectation. Chocolate expectation."
I would definitely recommend this to fans of magical realism and even chick lit. It's a nice cozy book and can be easily read in a few hours, because you won't want to put it down.