Sugar Land by tammy lynne stoner is a novel that tells the story of Dara, from her youth in Midland, Texas in the 1920s through her adulthood. As a teen, she falls in love with a female friend but struggles with the implications. Afraid of what having a relationship with another girl could lead to, she shuts her friend out of her life and starts work in the kitchen of the local prison. There, she befriends a black man with a gift for music. As her life progresses, she learns a lot about relationships, love, and how to accept people for who they truly are—including herself.
The historical aspects, from what I can tell, are accurate. There is some violence and attempted sexual assault, so keep that in mind if you decide to read this. However, this plot is engrossing, and you root for Dara as she faces difficult situations and decisions. Her growing confidence makes you cheer, and her sadness makes you melancholy as well.
stoner’s writing is quite good overall. Dara has a strong narrative voice, looking back on her life as she tells this story many years later. The other characters are fairly well-developed, especially Huddie, the Warden, Debbie, and Eddie. They could have been given perhaps a bit more depth, but still are distinct, well-characterized, and likeable. The relationships between all these people are complex, and difficult for various reasons, and this is handled well. You care about these characters and are invested in their various journeys—particularly the journeys of Huddie and Eddie, at least for me.
In the end, Sugar Land is an excellent read. The representation of LGBTQ people is great, and the handling of race relations in the mid-twentieth century is important and moving. This is a book I’d certainly recommend.
Overall rating: 8.5/10