Cover Image: Suite as Sugar

Suite as Sugar

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Member Reviews

In a Nutshell: Loved the introductory note and the reason behind this anthology. Couldn’t figure out the point of most of the stories. Disappointed.

The introductory note mentions that this short story collection is written in honour of the ancestors who persevered despite the odds, and for those who continue to suffer injustices today. The idea is to read it in order to reconnect with the earth, with nature, with spirit. The stories are described as Havana Noir and are located in varied places in Canada and The Caribbean.

Great intro and intent! If only the implementation created the same feelings in me. Most of the stories in this debut collection left me feeling zilch. The endings weren’t satisfactory – they were either abrupt or weird. The plot development was quite haphazard, sometimes with no logical correlation between the start and the end. They weren’t even slice-of-life in style, which could have explained away a few of the issues. 

Moreover, the blurb promised stories “permeated with the violence of colonial histories, personal and intimate, in settings where the veil between the living and the dead is obscured.” This led to very different expectations. The colonial history part of the claim is visible only in bits and pieces. 

I couldn’t connect to most of the characters in the stories. It was almost as if we were viewing them from a frosted glass pane, so they were visible more as blurred shapes than as well-etched figures.

One more thing that affected my enjoyment was the use of dialectical English in almost every story. While I understand why dialectical English works better in creating an authentic reader experience, reading it all through the story (especially with the Caribbean spellings and slang) is a major pain in the posterior. Audiobooks can handle dialects better, but during actual reading, a lot of time can be wasted figuring out the actual word from the spelling variant used. In fact, one of the stories (‘How to Build a Saddis’) comes from a child’s pov, and hence, the entire story is written in childish spellings (or rather misspellings.) This story is an amazing writing feat, because it surely takes a creative writer to put across every word in the tale from a child’s mind-set. But reading it? Oh my! I didn’t understand half of what the child was saying. 

Basically, I loved the intent behind this collection but couldn’t bring myself to enjoy the content.

As always, I rated the stories individually, and except for one story (‘Mr. Bull's Garden’) that touched the 4 star mark for its writing style and plot, the rest generated no memorable emotions. 

The author has writing talent, no doubt about it, but this just wasn’t my kind of writing. Coming from a country with a history of colonisation, I was hoping for an impactful experience with this collection. Sadly, it was not to be. Maybe fans of more abstract or surrealist works will enjoy this collection better.

2.6 stars, based on the average of my ratings for the individual stories. 

My thanks to Dundurn Press and NetGalley for the DRC of “Suite as Sugar”. This review is voluntary and contains my honest opinion about the book.
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I'm very interested in buckow. She took her native culture from Trinidad and wrote a book about it.. Every story in this book was interesting. The titles were different and it showed how people had to really try. Especially like the one about the skin color one and I can see how that can happen because they come to pick the sugars and things happen.

 E The little girl she made a point to make herself better and she did get better. Everybody had struggles in this book no matter what was going on. At the end of the book you'll find out what the title. Really means and I like how she explained it and sugar End S UIT E.
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It often shifted between ugh, I want this to finish soon, please, to wow, okay, I want more of this which I sad because in a short story collection, the bad ones really impact my feelings, don't the good ones. BUt overall Ramdwar has a beautiful way of expression and writing, and I do hope to see more of her work in the future.
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"He told me I should learn to drive. That I can't tell him anything, I cannot critique unless I am willing to take the wheel and handle mehself. Maybe there is a metaphor in that. Maybe I am not really living, maybe I need to face death every day like he does, gauging inches and milliseconds that would determine mine - or another person's - life expectancy. Maybe I need to be that bold and reckless. After all, what does tomorrow hold?"

TW: rape, animal abuse, death.

In this rich anthology of short stories, it would be unreasonable to attempt to pinpoint the most impactful tale. The collection - set between Trinidad and Canada - covers off an incredibly vast selection of very real and pressing issues, ranging from housing shortages fuelled by private investment, the exploitation of young, vulnerable women and cultural phenomena such as the "I's de Man Lane" - effectively the grown mans version of playing Chicken.

In a shock to no one, not every story is made equal, but those which hit, hit hard. The selection manage to provide  ample context and engulf the reader into the tale with ease, but keeps the reader wanting, and at times, needing,  more. Closure doesn't really present itself throughout the short stories, but this matches the very sombre tone and topics covered.

I know when a books publisher is overseen by Dundurn Press that it's going to be a hit. They know a gem, and this was no exception. My only suggestion is to read slowly and take time between each story instead of ravishing the book in one, to really reflect on the various themes and consider the deeper implications of each. I know I certainly found myself self-reflecting on my own opinions on various issues covered, including most poignantly, the loosely veiled tale about taking a 'wafer' to protect oneself against disease, reflecting the coronavirus vaccine debates heavily reported on over the last few years, through the eyes of a an 'anti-waferer', who "thought of her children and their wafered lives, and she wondered if, in time, the effects of wafering could wear off, if cells could regenerate, if wholeness could be restored."

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.
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First I would like to say thank you to Dundurn Press for the digital ARC in exchange for an honest review. I really love short story collections and I'm glad I can add this to my list.
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Don't think I'll manage to finish this in time but I'll definately be completing it at a later date, This is a far ranging story collection with a lot of heavy topics broached. I always feel appreciative of collections that focus on non-white lived experiences and struggles and this books succesfully provides that little bit of insight,
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I will buy this book to finish later, as I did not manage to finish this in time - but it is in line with my interests and I enjoyed it.
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dnf at 55%

i've read 7 of the 14 stories in this collection, and sadly i couldn't connect to a single one. each story's theme is either simply too big or i failed to find its purpose at all. none of the narrators felt like fleshed-out sympathetic characters and it was almost like the reader was constantly held at arm's length. quite disappointed, because i normally love short story collections!

i enjoyed the variety of caribbean culture reflected in these stories though, whether set on one of the islands or in canada. and i didn't mind accents coming up in dialogue every now and then, but a whole story written in an accent was simply unreadable to me, i'm sorry.

thank you to netgalley and the publisher for this early digital copy in exchange for an honest review.
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The writing is choppy and the stories lack any kind of cohesion. This book is absolutely awful, I do not recommend it
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Suite as Sugar by Camille Hernández-Ramdwar - reviewed for issue 98 of Mslexia (out early June 2023)
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Camille Hernandez-Ramdwar writes beautifully and is clearly very talented, however this short story collection fell short. 

There were a few good ones in here but overall I found myself losing interest in most stories and the change in voice and tone didn’t allow for the reading experience to flow. 

Her subject matter is really important and blends different cultures and traditions together in a way that is fascinating.
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"Dey don't even know what a good wine is, throwing dey vəgina dong on de dutty pavement and trying to be Cardi X and Megan D Horse...seta lorseness". 

I was eager to read "Suite as Sugar ahead of #ReadCaribbean month, namely because I love to feel close to the Caribbean without the heavy price tag of a flight, but also because I love a short
story collection. My two faves put together should normally equate to "MAGIC". 

"Suite as Sugar" is a compilation of 14 short stories set between Canada, Cuba & Trinidad. These stories focus on various social issues such as; violent crime; homelessness; toxic masculinity; colonial-
ism; stigmatised & modern-day illnesses; homophobia within the Caribbean communities; animal neglect & abuse. All issues, are ones in which will feel familiar to us, regardless of our locality. 

With such a vast range of topics being covered by Hernández, I had high hopes that this collection would be up there amongst my favourites after reading. BUT... 

Asides from the above quote cracking me up, this has got to be one of the most underwhelming Caribbean short story collections that I have read thus far. 

My main issue with the stories in this collection, was the lack of resolve for the characters. The characters in a nutshell, felt completely under developed, as did the plot for each story. 

I love to feel connected to characters and their stories, but the stories in "Suite as Sugar", felt as though they were crafted for the sole intention of existing on a page somewhere. Ultimately (in my opinion), "Suite As Sugar" lacked purpose, it lacked direction, and it lacked the ability to execute the meaning, and context for these characters and their stories. 

Thanks to @netgalley for my early copy, but not one for me on this occasion I'm afraid. 

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This is a varied and diverse collection which challenged my perspective and explores themes of colonial legacy, diversity and representation. Overall I found it didn't quite hold together as much as I might have expected.
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From Winnipeg winterscapes to Toronto’s condo culture, from Havana’s haunted streets to Trinidad’s calamitous environs, the stories in Suite as Sugar are permeated with the violence of colonial histories, personal and intimate, reflecting legacies of abandonment and loss. The veil between the living and the dead is obscured, chaos becomes panacea, and characters take drastic measures into their own hands.

Survivors of all kinds seek strategy and solace: a group of homeless people organize an occupation of vacant condos, a new resident to a disturbing neighbourhood tries to make sense of madness, a dog investigates the sudden disappearance of his owner. The five intertwined vignettes in the title story are set in a Caribbean country where the spectre of the sugar plantation haunts everyone. Tying this collection together is the casual brutality of our everyday lives, whether seen through the eyes of animal, spirit, or human being.

This author writes with warmth and engaging perception about our relationship and understanding…..
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"Suite as Sugar and Other Stories" by Camille Hernández-Ramdwar is a collection of captivating stories that take readers on a journey from Winnipeg to Toronto, and from Havana to Trinidad. The stories are deeply rooted in the violent colonial histories of these places and explore themes of abandonment and loss. The characters, whether human, animal, or spirit, are all survivors seeking solace and strategy. The title story ties the collection together, highlighting the haunting legacy of sugar plantations in the Caribbean. The prose is transatlantic, blending Caribbean and Canadian influences, and the stories cover a range of topics including sexuality, spirituality, crime, and history. Hernández-Ramdwar is a talented writer with a deft hand, and her stories will leave readers wanting more.

I recieved an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I went into this collection enjoying the first story, however I just couldn’t get along with any others. The dog narrative story was absolutely shocking but I’m not sure if it was in a good way because it was meant to be emotional or bad way because it is horrific 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for the e arc
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As with most short story collections, I connected with some of them but not all. I really enjoyed the writing and the characters though, even on the stories that didn’t fully pack a punch. Very nice.
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I think what is hard with short stories is you don't always connect or engage with them and what is nice about this book was it dealt with some really punchy topics so you did connect. There was only a couple that I did not warm to which is often the case and nothing against the writer.

Nice change of a read for me
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers at  Rare Machines for a chance to read “Suite as Sugar” as an eARC! 

First, let me start the review with a disclaimer: I’m neither Canadian nor West Indian. While I’m from countries with Caribbean coasts (Mexico and Nicaragua), “Caribbean” is not the first word I’d use to describe my ethnic/national origin, which is the identity that this book deeply concerns itself with. This is clearly a book meant for intra-community conversation (deftly noted in “The Death of Caribana” chapter) and I’m humbled to get a small glimpse into the nuances of Caribbean-Canadian cultures and contradictions. Any readers - especially white reviewers not from this context - who do not understand that conceit truly missed the entire point of this book. 

I am however a child of diaspora from histories of colonization, which is why the book resonated so much with me. “Suite as Sugar” on the surface has so many stories and vignettes that have little in common with each other, until one sits with the fact that that is exactly how places like the cultures of the Caribbean were born: bringing peoples that in theory have nothing to do with each other and seeing the meaning they create alongside each other, even if it is from a history of domination and violence. 

Suite as Sugar uses the vignettes angle to get at the central point that there is no one definitive Caribbean perspective. We can only hope to hear from as many people (and even dogs, as demonstrated by “Yellow Dog Blues”) within as possible to understand how beautiful and complex being alive on any of the islands is. 

This is not a book for the faint of heart. It is a book that deals with rampant sexual, emotional, physical, and systemic violence, and some vignettes are more successful than others in making a point beyond the bleakness of how normal cruelty can be in peoples’ lives. When done well, stories like “I’s the Man Lane” will stick with you for a long time especially as you see an speeding car cut off multiple people on the highway. When not so well, some of the stories end up feeling a little pointless, which undermines pacing and the book’s overall impact. 

“Suite as Sugar” is clearly interested in the disconnect between academia and lived experiences of colonized peoples (“It’s Lit,” “Obfuscation,” and “The Death of the Caribana” in particular illustrate that conversation). It’s interested in how people learn to hurt others, why they continue, and how this pain transcends generations or even mortality (“Ghosts of la Rampa” and “How to Build a Saddis” come to mind). 

At the same time it’s also a book that can get a little fat-phobic (the unhappy fates of folks in “Suite as Sugar” seem tied up to their fatness in a way that feels more exploitative than illuminating) and anti-vaxxer friendly (I’m looking at you, “Amberine”) in addition to how casual it can get with sexual violence in particular. 

All in all, the book is a bit of a mess but I hope it inspires some important conversation, and provides more representation in the publishing world at large. Excited to see the discourse this book inspires, especially when celebrating the joy of ancestors past in “The Biggest Fête.”
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It's not your typical book. It is a short story collection on surivial and the different ways human beings try to survive in the world. It's about seeking solace and coming together with others who are willing to give you a chance. Interesting book overall.
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