Relocating to the sugar plantations of Hawaii when their Caribbean farm is decimated by the Spanish-American War and the San Ciriaco Hurricane, two Puerto Ricans join thousands of fellow refugees in confronting the realities of American prosperity. - (Baker & Taylor)
“A masterful work of historical fiction. . . . [A] Latino Grapes of Wrath.”—Ron Charles, Washington Post
Marisel Vera emerges as a major new voice in contemporary fiction with this “capacious” (The New Yorker) novel set in Puerto Rico on the eve of the Spanish-American War. Up in the mountainous region of Utuado, Vicente Vega and Valentina Sanchez labor to keep their coffee farm from the creditors. When the great San Ciriaco hurricane of 1899 brings devastating upheaval, the young couple is lured along with thousands of other puertorriquenos to the sugar plantations of Hawaii, where they are confronted by the hollowness of America’s promises of prosperity. Depicting the roots of Puerto Rican alienation and exodus, which resonates especially today, The Taste of Sugar is “a gorgeous feat of storytelling” (Tayari Jones).
- (WW Norton
Washington Post ' 50 Notable Works of Fiction in 2020 ' NBC News ' 12 Best Latino Books of 2020 ' "Enthralling. . . . A masterful work of historical fiction that traces monumental economic and political currents. . . . [A] Latino Grapes of Wrath." ' Ron Charles, The Washington Post
Marisel Vera emerges as a major voice of contemporary fiction with a heart-wrenching novel set in Puerto Rico on the eve of the Spanish-American War.
It is 1898, and groups of starving Puerto Ricans, los hambrientos
, roam the parched countryside and dusty towns begging for food. Under the yoke of Spanish oppression, the Caribbean island is forced to prepare to wage war with the United States. Up in the mountainous coffee region of Utuado, Vicente Vega and Valentina Sanchez labor to keep their small farm from the creditors. When the Spanish-American War and the great San Ciriaco Hurricane of 1899 bring devastating upheaval, the young couple is lured, along with thousands of other puertorriquenos
, to the sugar plantations of Hawaii'another US territory'where they are confronted by the hollowness of America's promises of prosperity. Writing in the tradition of great Latin American storytelling, Marisel Vera's The Taste of Sugar
is an unforgettable novel of love and endurance, and a timeless portrait of the reasons we leave home.
- (WW Norton
Tapping into her Puerto Rican heritage and conducting plenty of research, Vera (If I Bring You Roses, 2011) presents a heartfelt depiction of once-proud coffee plantation hacendados (owners) in very difficult times. In the years before the Spanish-American War of 1898, Valentina Sanchez is a hopeless romantic from Ponce when she marries Vicente Vega of rural Utuado, a good man who can only offer hard work on the plantation. Buckling down to establish a dignified life while so many other islanders are starving, they grapple with injustice and the invading U.S. military. Presaging recent Puerto Rican tragedies, their fragile family economy is finally destroyed after the devastating 1899 hurricane, San Ciriaco. In their desperation, the Vegas take the extreme measure of following the siren call of sugar-cane-plantation recruiters and migrate to Hawaii, where they face ruthless exploitation. Progressing chronologically, the omniscient narrator seamlessly folds in Spanish words and phrases as well as epistolary interludes between Valentina and her sister, Elena. Vera 's novel is historical fiction at its best, featuring engaging survivors from a forgotten past. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.