The Two Lives of Sara

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Sara and her son Lebanon arrive at Mama Sugar’s home in West Memphis to work and to escape the pain and tragedy they left behind in Chicago. Mama Sugar’s family, and the roomers in her boarding house, The Scarlet Poplar, accept Sara right away, though their kindness is unfamiliar to her. The Two Lives of Sara, from Catherine Adel West, seeks to reconcile her painful past and hopeful future.

As Sara raises Lebanon and grows closer to Mama Sugar’s family, she begins to realize that the horrors of her prior life were about other people’s failings, not her own. She cooks alongside Mama and begins to speak up during the social and political conversations that occur at The Scarlet Poplar, especially those related to the Civil Rights movement brewing in the city. She strikes up a relationship with Jonas Coulter, a young teacher who takes an interest in Mama’s grandson Will, and her life seems to blossom before her.

But there is a darkness in The Scarlet Poplar that threatens the joy she’s trying to build. Mama’s son Amos, Will’s father, has dealings with dangerous people over gambling debts, and while the consequences of his actions should be his to reap, that’s not always the case when family is involved.

This book has a lovely rhythm and pace, and the characters are rich in development, as is the setting. The ending is a disappointment in that Sara makes a decision that seems antithetical to every other choice she’s made. It was hard to accept that this was the other life for her, but Catherine Adel West likely felt it was the only way to resolve The Two Lives of Sara.

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Star Count 4/5
Format Hard
Page Count 320 pages
Publisher Park Row Books
Publish Date 06-Sep-2022
ISBN 9780778333227 Buy this Book
Issue September 2022
Category Popular Fiction