Book Review: The Two Lives of Sara, Catherine Adel West

Book Review: The Two Lives of Sara, Catherine Adel West


The Two Lives of Sara

Historical Fiction: The Two Lives of Sara, Catherine Adel West

Blog Tour November 28, 2022


I have written and erased my first sentence several times. It’s funny how books that make the most of words can leave me speechless.


Sara King has left her home in Chicago and moved to Memphis to stay with her friend’s aunt. Sara is young, single, pregnant, a black woman in the early 1960s. Life has not been kind to her. She is angry, resentful, hurt. Sara did not want to be a mother, she was not ready to be a mother, but in the early 1960s her choices were limited.


Living in the boarding house run by “Mama Sugar” as she is often called, Sara gets pulled into a family that challenges her to dare to love. Mama Sugar and her husband, Mr. Vanellys, their intelligent grandson Will, even the boarders at the house challenge her to accept herself, to accept her child, to accept their love. After her son Lebanon is born, they love on him and finally teach Sara how to begin to love on him herself.


I don’t want to give away spoilers, but it would not be much of a book if Sara’s life turned into a fairytale and she lived happily ever after. She is no princess, Memphis is no kingdom, and life can be cruel. Sara’s journey is difficult, her choices are sometimes questionable, and her future is left quite unsettled in the end. But the story, oh this story, grabs you and grips you and does not let you go.


In our blogging venture I have had a few books that shook me to my core: There There; The Mountains Sing; In the Shadow of the Banyan; The Garden of Angels. I can now add The Two Lives of Sara to that list. Catherine Adel West looks unsparingly at the lives of black people in the early 60’s in Memphis through the eyes of a broken woman who starts to find healing. Like any person whose life has been shattered, repairs are held together initially by a glue that needs time to set. If that glue does not set, if that time is too short, the devastation might be worse than before.


Sara’s story is one of the power of love, the power of loss, and most of all a desperate intention to survive. It is sometimes hopeful, sometimes heartbreaking, and in many ways echoes its backdrop of the civil rights era. It’s a story that will stay with me.


Our thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things for our copy of The Two Lives of Sara, provided so we could be part of this blog tour. The opinions here are solely those of Scintilla. For other perspectives on this novel, check out the other bloggers on this tour.


The Two Lives of Sara

Book Review: The Two Lives of Sara, Catherine Adel West

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