Black Sugar

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews - CAMILLE-YVETTE WELSCH

Miguel Bon­nefoy Emily Boyce (Trans­la­tor) Gal­lic Books (MARCH) Soft­cover $14.95 (208pp) 978-1-910477-52-6

Black Sugar opens as pi­rate Henry Mor­gan dies clutch­ing his gold, his ship sink­ing un­der a Car­ib­bean for­est. In this mo­ment of vivid mag­i­cal re­al­ism, Miguel Bon­nefoy sets the stakes for his novel—sunken trea­sure in the is­lands and the lengths peo­ple will go to find and keep it.

The story leaps, from Mor­gan, some three hun­dred years into the fu­ture, to the small self-sus­tain­ing vil­lage that now lies atop the ru­ined ship. On the Oteros sugar cane farm, an old woman en­ters the house and pro­ceeds to a locked back room to which only she has the key. She brings with her a bucket to fill with tears, adding an­other layer of mys­tery to the story’s fan­tas­ti­cal start.

Other char­ac­ters con­verge at the Oteros sugar cane farm, some search­ing for love, some for the lost trea­sure. In this al­le­gory, love of the land bat­tles with de­sire for the con­trol of wealth. The char­ac­ter who grounds it all is ama­teur botanist Ser­ena Oteros, an in­tro­verted only child and heir to the farm.

The land­scape of the novel is lush and vi­brant. It both takes and gives at its whim, and the de­scrip­tions of it cap­ture its green­ery and hu­mid­ity. From sugar cane to rum, Bon­nefoy hon­ors and de­tails the farm­ing and pro­duc­tion pro­cesses with richly de­tailed prose. He is sim­i­larly adept at con­vey­ing the va­garies of re­la­tion­ships be­tween lovers and be­tween par­ents and chil­dren, and grants ac­cess to the in­ner thoughts of mul­ti­ple char­ac­ters to cap­ture such ten­sions.

The novel sails through three generations of love and in­trigue, adeptly switch­ing be­tween in­ner thoughts and op­u­lent ex­te­ri­ors. When it reaches its de­noue­ment, its many threads weave to­gether in a way that is un­ex­pected and en­tirely sat­is­fy­ing.

Black Sugar holds its own in the Latin Amer­i­can mag­i­cal-re­al­ism tra­di­tion.

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