For those who enjoy an emotional roller-coaster
This is the story of Mercy, also known as Sugar, and her attempts first to cope with and finally to escape from her dysfunctional home in small-town east coast America. Sugar’s father is absent, her mother is so overweight she can’t get out of bed, one of her brother’s is a vicious brute and the other has moved out. Sugar cooks and cleans and tries to keep everyone happy, burying her own anger and depression by eating mountains of sugary food. Into this world comes new-boy-in-town Even, who is drawn to Sugar and wants to spend time with her. His influence starts to give her a new view on her life, to cut down on her eating and to take up other interests, such as walking and learning to ride a motorbike. This is not, however, a romance, and Sugar’s escape from her miserable life is not magically caused by love – or at least not in the way one might expect.
Sugar examines the effects of a mother taking out her own unhappiness on her children; it also looks at themes such as bullying, body-image and redemption through self-discovery. It is at times a harrowing read but the fictionalised setting is well-crafted and believable.
There is a lot to like about this book. The writing is strong, Even is gorgeous and Sugar gradually loses her victimhood and becomes someone we are rooting for. On the downside, for me it was too emotional, some of the bullying too nasty and shown to us with far too much repetition. Also there were a couple of plot twists which felt like they were put in to move the plot forward and didn’t feel quite natural, for example the introduction of the character Jesus (a man, not the son of God!). Overall, I’d consider this a good but not brilliant read.
If you enjoy a contemporary read which is an emotional roller-coaster, this is a great book for you.