Cover Image: Suite as Sugar

Suite as Sugar

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Member Reviews

Book Review: Suite as Sugar: and Other Stories by Camille Hernández-Ramdwar

Rating: ⭐⭐ stars

Suite as Sugar: and Other Stories by Camille Hernández-Ramdwar is a collection of short stories that explores the interplay between resilience and trauma in the lives of its characters. Set in various locations such as Winnipeg, Toronto, Havana, and Trinidad, these stories are deeply influenced by the violence of colonial histories and personal struggles. While some stories in this collection shine with their poignant narratives, a significant portion of the book falls short in terms of development and impact.

The author skillfully captures the essence of the characters’ connection to their ancestral roots in the absence of elders. Through their experiences, we witness the legacies of abandonment and consequential loss. Hernández-Ramdwar blurs the line between the living and the dead, creating an atmosphere where chaos becomes a panacea and characters are compelled to take matters into their own hands.

One of the standout features of this collection is the author’s ability to depict survivors of all kinds seeking strategy and solace amidst their challenging circumstances. For instance, we encounter a group of homeless individuals who organize an occupation of vacant condos, a newcomer to a disturbing neighborhood grappling with madness, and even a dog investigating the sudden disappearance of its owner. These stories showcase the author’s talent for crafting unique narratives that offer a fresh perspective on human experiences.

However, it is important to note that while certain stories in Suite as Sugar captivate readers with their depth and emotional resonance, a significant portion of the collection falls flat. These particular stories feel underdeveloped and fail to leave a lasting impact on the reader. This inconsistency in quality prevents the book from reaching its full potential.

Despite its shortcomings, the central thread tying this collection together is the casual brutality of everyday life. Whether viewed through the eyes of animals, spirits, or human beings, Hernández-Ramdwar consistently addresses the harsh realities that individuals face. This exploration adds depth to the overall theme of resilience and trauma, highlighting the author’s intention to shed light on the unseen forces that shape our lives.

In conclusion, Suite as Sugar: and Other Stories by Camille Hernández-Ramdwar is a collection with mixed results. While some stories shine with their poignant narratives and unique perspectives, others feel underdeveloped and fail to leave a lasting impact. However, the book’s exploration of resilience and trauma in the face of casual brutality is commendable. Readers interested in diverse short story collections may find value in exploring this work, but those seeking consistent excellence may be left wanting more.

**ARC Via NetGalley**

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The writing style of Camille Hernandez-Randwar is lovely. Some of the stories were hard to relate to and were not my cup of tea. The ones that were good, were amazing, and I loved them!

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When the stories are good they are excellent, the others not so much. A truly diverse perspective set in both the Caribbean and Canada, mainly Toronto. These stories tackle issues of gentrification, poverty, modern life versus older ways of living and abandoned animals. When they work you are transported into the character's world and acquire deeper understanding of their lives and are frustrated when they end abruptly, when they don't work, you're not sure what the story's purpose was.

With thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Personally, I don’t think this collection was for me. Normally I enjoy short story collections feeling that they manage to pack quite a punch in a short number of pages but unfortunately I found that most of them weren’t enough to get me properly invested. I enjoyed the themes of the stories, focussing around social and cultural issues that affect people every day; though the content was sadly not up my alley.

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This collection of short stories is really fresh and original.
For me, each story emphasizes the resilience of human beings (and even animals) in today's self centric and un-empathic society.. Some stories are sombre, sometimes brutal and difficult to read but what they all have in common in that the Spiritual transcends and conquers over the mere Body.

So be prepared to be transported not only to varied locations from Canada to the Caribbean's but also on a philosophical and spiritual journey which will leave you thoughtful about Human Nature.

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There were some REALLY great ones and some reallllly not great ones. I wish the editor took out the not-so-great ones and left the great ones so it was a better ratio. I think for a debut collection it was solid but needs work for next publication!

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A fairly interesting collection of short stories seeped in culture. I have read a few collections of short stories now and I feel that it's not necessarily the book for me. I enjoy most of them, some more than other, but I don't get in to them as much as other books I read.

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This collection of short stories was a mixed bag for me. Some were punchy and I immediately engaged with the characters and felt challenged by what the author was discussing.

I particularly liked the opening story about a group of spontaneous gurilla homeless squatters protesting against the unfair property system in Toronto. I also liked a killer of a story called Yellow Dog Blues narrated by a stray dog.

But there were quite a few that I just didn't get and they left me cold. The language was hard to understand and some of the cultural settings weren't very accessible.

An interesting and challenging read overall.

This honest review is given with thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this book.

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This short story collection was such a good read. Mainly set in Toronto, Trinidad and a few other Caribbean countries, the stories were on point as they tackled social and cultural disparities.
Showing us the brutal realities of the homeless in Toronto, the changing landscape of thought with regards to LGBTQ+ rights in the Caribbean, how a global issue divided us, and the infighting that goes on with the Caribbean community when it comes to certain aspects of culture. Hernandez-Ramdwar writes characters with depth and heart.

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The author opens with a dedication of sorts to the ancestors who through dedication and stalwartness survived injustices, unimaginable challenges and difficult circumstances. It is also dedicated to those immigrants and indigenous people who are still going through it in the Caribbean and in the Canadian provinces. While the intent of the collection is admirable, I ultimately found the stories a bit disjointed and too open-ended and nebulous for me to connect or fully grasp the messages – I’m sure I missed a lot of what the author intended.

I applaud the originality of the stories that tackle a myriad of socio-political issues: homelessness and affordable housing, anti-LBGTQAI+ legislation and denial of rights, discrimination of immigrants during a pandemic and health care for the poor and disenfranchised. I appreciated the history lessons that were sprinkled through and would have appreciated more or a deeper dive into the ramifications of the past into the present.

At its core, it presents themes for thought and consideration once the last page is turned as it essentially attempts to highlight the institutionalized systems of cruelty we have constructed that continue to oppress and suppress.

Thanks to the publisher, Dundurn Press, Rare Machines, and NetGalley for an opportunity to review.

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I was pleasantly surprised at this collection!

Each piece brought something different to the collection, and yet they all felt almost equally necessary. The variety in dialect and location are also amazing and used thoughtfully in each piece.

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The stories were seeping in culture and a lot of them had a really interesting point. The writing really paints a picture and you could see the characters in front of you and experience what they felt. I could see this as a tv-series. However I didn't feel a thread or connection and this made me feel less invested sometimes.

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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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