The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper was my first Book Jar pull! If I recall correctly, it was purchased for a class in college (and never read). I remembered a bit of the first few chapters (like I tried to read it!), but three quarters of the book was new to me.
Sugar Beach is a memoir of her life thus far. She was born into an affluent family in Liberia, a descendant of one of the original freed slave founders of the country. The story goes through her young life as war broke out, and in to her adult life as she becomes a young professional reporter traveling the world.
The first half to two-thirds of the book talk about her time growing up in Liberia. Her parents’ divorce, her family, school, the separation of people. All of it. When the coup happens, overthrowing the government, we get a quick switch to them fleeing Liberia for America.
Helene’s time in America is put on fast forward. She finishes school very quickly. Moves on to college and gets her first job. There was all of this build up about Liberia and growing up, and then very little about later. She spent some time in Iraq shortly after 9/11. The, she wraps it all up by returning to Liberia to the “sister” she left behind. It felt like a lot of build up to a very dissatisfying end.
Am I happy I read it? Yes. Would I read it again? Probably not. Would I recommend it? Not unless you have a very specific interest in Africa or African history. I thought that it was beautifully written, and told a story well. It was almost conversational in its telling. I read it faster than I anticipated, which was a pleasant surprise. I think it would be amazing to have the opportunity to speak with Ms. Cooper in person.
All in, I’d give this 4/5 stars.
I’ve hit a real reading stride, so be expecting a lot more book reviews on the blog.
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