My rating: 3 of 5 stars
White Sugar, Brown Sugar is a novel set in Daytona Beach, Florida. An upper middle-class white boy from the peninsula, or beach-side, of the Inland Waterway, and a black boy of lesser means, who lives west of the railroad tracks, where Blacks (who were called Negroes and other names at the time) were required to live, become good friends, in spite of the racial separation in effect in the 60’s in the south. David “Jude” Armstrong and Roosevelt Harris meet at a basin of a yacht club. Jude, the white boy, fishes from the docks, where stately boats stand. Roosevelt, the black boy, and his family, fish with cane poles on the wall next to the street.
The boys meet various times over the years. The tranquility of Jude Armstrong’s safe, upper middle-class white world ends when his alcoholic mother tosses his father out of the house. Roosevelt Harris’s life has never been tranquil. He has grown up with his grandparents. He has never known a father, and his mother is a heroin addict who disappears for weeks at a time, and is incarcerated frequently. Neither boy understands the racial issues of the time.
Both boys fully understand the misery and difficulties that arise from abuse of alcohol and drugs, and both swear they will never end up in that situation, yet they both follow the same path.
White Sugar, Brown Sugar follows their loss of innocence, submergence to the depths of desperation and eventual emergence as recovering adults. It is a story of deep friendship, hope, strength, and inspiration.
So, I have this habit of picking books based on the cover and a few lines of description. I don’t want to know too much… I don’t want anyone’s preconceived notions to infiltrate my thoughts and personal feelings about the story.
I’m always down for a book about racial discord and/or harmony, southern literature and stories about two people who have overcome what should tear them apart to come together. I thought this book was about a black boy and a white boy who defy odds and social opinion to become friends.
Imagine my surprise when I am enthralled by the vivid portrayal of two boys living a lower class existence in a broken home. Both descend into a world of using acid, heroin, weed (reefer) and alcohol. Both are arrested several times and have several opportunities to get their lives together.
Roosevelt has watched his mother battle her drug demons of and on his whole life. Jude rebels against the straight and narrow path that his stuffy father wants him to follow.
White Sugar (pure crystaline, injectible heroin) Brown Sugar (base heroin for smoking) is graphic and real in telling it’s story. I reached a point where I couldn’t put it down. I needed to know how things worked out for Roosevelt and Judah.
I think endings in particular are difficult… I’ve read very few really satisfying endings and this ending isn’t one of them. It wasn’t terrible, just a bit cliche. Not unhappy at all… it read like a good episode of Intervention.
E.G. Tripp does a great job developing his characters and bringing them forward on the page. Settings are vivid, the story is easy to follow. It does get a little preachy, but that tends to happen in books about addiction and a recovery.
Overall a gripping, enjoyable read but not the deep southern drama I was really looking for.