Sugar Land

Red Hen. Oct. 2018. 344p. ISBN 9781597096270. pap. $16.95. F
DEBUT In 1923 Texas, 19-year-old Dana and Rhodie's burgeoning romance doesn't stand a chance. After Dana overhears her cousin, Sheriff Earl, boasting about beating lesbians and running them out of his jurisdiction, she leaves Rhodie and takes a job as a cook at the state prison in Sugar Land, TX. There, she ignores Rhodie's letters from college, befriends inmate blues musician Leadbelly, endures sexual harassment from the sadistic head chef, and eventually marries the widowed prison warden. After he passes away, "Nana Dana" remains close to her two stepdaughters, moves into a cat-filled trailer home, and enters the 1950s assuming that she will be lonely for the rest of her life. Tanya May Rogerton, a local dressmaker (and widow) may be able to change Dana's solo destiny if Dana can just let it happen and enjoy herself. Racism, sexism, and homophobia have an impact on all of the characters, and Nana Dana is resilient and relatable and doesn't always follow the path readers might want.
VERDICT In this engaging and authentic tale of one woman's life and loves, debut novelist Stoner follows in the bright legacy of Southern humorists such as Fannie Flagg, Rita Mae Brown, Bailey White, and Rebecca Wells.—Jennifer B. Stidham, Houston Community Coll. Northeast

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