What I wanted was a sweet and unique story that would allow me to escape for the length of time the narration took. Sarah Addison Allen managed to present a story that was full of southern charm and sweetness, with a unique edge of unexpected fairy godmothers to enhance a life that was stale and uninspiring. Josey is stuck in a life that doesn’t quite fit: a little too ‘ethnic’ looking when compared to her mother, a famed belle, a little too large, too loud, perhaps even too outspoken for her own good. She stuffs her feelings of inadequacy from her hidden sanctuary: an unused closet full to the brim with unsuitable paperback romances, pop, candy and other sweets. Josey is stuck in neutral, and too worried about what others may think to dare changing or acting on her own thoughts. And Josey wants to leave the ‘nowhere’ small town in the North Carolina mountains – away from the responsibility of caring for her unloving mother, prying eyes and expectations that she is certain she will never meet.
When Josey finds the notorious ‘bad girl” Della Lee hiding in her closet, Josey is determined to get Della Lee to leave. One problem: Della is comfortable where she is at the moment, and she knows that Josey doesn’t want her secret stash revealed. Polar opposites, Josey and Della Lee begin a series of bargains as Della pushes Josey out of her self-imposed rut. Della Lee is a wonderful counterpoint, to Josey: forthright and impulsive, she does what every ‘good girl’ doesn’t dare attempt and has had a wonderful time, mostly, of doing it.
A series of bargains lead Josey through a wonderful path of self-discovery as she learns to take responsibility for her own choices, and stand up to her mother, perhaps earning her the first modicum of grudging respect from that quarter. Della Lee isn’t above snooping (she did hide out in her closet) so when she finds that Josey harbors a closely held crush on the mailman, she prods, pushes and challenges her to make a move in that direction.
Josey’s transformation is cleverly plotted and easy to relate to, even though readers may not feel a kinship with her exact issues, they will find a connection to her struggle: the fear, the worry, the struggle between selfish wants and obligations that conflict. Using several sweet references that instantly draw taste and scent memories from readers adds to the feel and sense of the story.
Narration in this version is from Karen White, who is fast becoming a ‘must listen’ narrator for me. Her subtle changes for character voice and accents serve to enhance their history and backstories, from subtle hint of the south to the full on twang, the voices and delivery introduce characters with distinct elements that do not waver from introduction to end. There were a few moments where the recording had some problems: whether recorded later and cut in, or the external sound dampening was briefly deactivated, a few sections carried an echo that was brief, but noticeable, and other volume changes were present occasionally as well. Not enough to completely disrupt the listen, but of a frequency to be noted.
I wasn’t looking for nor expecting a story grounded in realism and clearly tied to the here and now, and the elements of magic and potential of some unknown hand subtly pushing events in one direction or another to serve a wish or a whim were perfectly played and add a sense of the possible to the story. Sweet and light, with plenty of humor and flavor to please many, I enjoyed this story and will keep it on my “when you want to escape” listen pile.
Stars: Overall: 4 Narration: 5 Story: 4
Title: The Sugar Queen
Author: Sarah Addison Allen
Narrator: Karen White
Published by: Books on Tape
Source: AudioBook Jukebox
Audio Length: 8 Hours: 7 minutes
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Twenty-seven-year-old Josey Cirrini is sure of three things: winter in her North Carolina hometown is her favorite season, she’s a sorry excuse for a Southern belle, and sweets are best eaten in the privacy of her hidden closet. For while Josey has settled into an uneventful life in her mother’s house, her one consolation is the stockpile of sugary treats and paperback romances she escapes to each night…. Until she finds it harboring none other than local waitress Della Lee Baker, a tough-talking, tenderhearted woman who is one part nemesis—and two parts fairy godmother…
Fleeing a life of bad luck and big mistakes, Della Lee has decided Josey’s clandestine closet is the safest place to crash. In return she’s going to change Josey’s life—because, clearly, it is not the closet of a happy woman. With Della Lee’s tough love, Josey is soon forgoing pecan rolls and caramels, tapping into her startlingly keen feminine instincts, and finding her narrow existence quickly expanding.
Before long, Josey bonds with Chloe Finley, a young woman who makes the best sandwiches in town, is hounded by books that inexplicably appear whenever she needs them, and—most amazing of all—has a close connection to Josey’s longtime crush.
As little by little Josey dares to step outside herself, she discovers a world where the color red has astonishing power, passion can make eggs fry in their cartons, and romance can blossom at any time—even for her. It seems that Della Lee’s work is done, and it’s time for her to move on. But the truth about where she’s going, why she showed up in the first place—and what Chloe has to do with it all—is about to add one more unexpected chapter to Josey’ s fast-changing life.
Brimming with warmth, wit, and a sprinkling of magic, here is a spellbinding tale of friendship, love—and the enchanting possibilities of every new day.
A copy of this title was provided via AudioBook Jukebox for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.