White Sugar, Brown Sugar is a novel set in Daytona Beach, Florida. An upper middle-class white boy from the peninsula, or beach-side, of the Inland Waterway, and a black boy of lesser means, who lives west of the railroad tracks, where Blacks (who were called Negroes and other names at the time) were required to live, become good friends, in spite of the racial separation in effect in the 60's in the south.
David "Jude" Armstrong and Roosevelt Harris meet at a basin of a yacht club. Jude, the white boy, fishes from the docks, where stately boats stand. Roosevelt, the black boy, and his family, fish with cane poles on the wall next to the street. The boys meet various times over the years. The tranquility of Jude Armstrong's safe, upper middle-class white world ends when his alcoholic mother tosses his father out of the house. Roosevelt Harris's life has never been tranquil. He has grown up with his grandparents. He has never known a father, and his mother is a heroin addict who disappears for weeks at a time, and is incarcerated frequently.
Neither boy understands the racial issues of the time. Both boys fully understand the misery and difficulties that arise from abuse of alcohol and drugs, and both swear they will never end up in that situation, yet they both follow the same path. Eventually, Jude's father, Lansing Armstrong, an attorney, helps the boys escape criminal prosecution for drug-related crimes, and becomes a guiding light for both boys. Roosevelt grasps sobriety much sooner and easier than Jude does.
As the founder of a successful restaurant business, he eventually places both Roosevelt and Jude in control of the business. Jude and Roosevelt struggle to overcome their prior problems, and eventually lead normal and successful lives. White Sugar, Brown Sugar follows their loss of innocence, submergence to the depths of desperation and eventual emergence as recovering adults.
It is a story of deep friendship, hope, strength, and inspiration.
John Williamson (NYC & Bucks County, PA)
Sometimes a debut novel will really surprise the reader with its scope and depth. Such is the case with this one.
White Sugar, Brown Sugar is a novel of many levels and spanning many years. Some will see it as a novel about race relations and discrimination in Florida during the 1960s. Others will see it as an exploration of drug and alcohol abuse, and subsequent recovery for some. But for this reader, it's a book about the triumph of the human spirit.
E.G. Tripp, which is actually the nom de plume for Florida author and resident Michael A. Pyle, takes us through a journey spanning the years from the '60s and beyond, opening our eyes and minds initially to two young boys from different sides of the tracks during the era of segregation in the South, primarily centered in Daytona Beach. There's David "Jude" Armstrong, the upper middle-class white boy whose family lives in the better side of town, across the bridges on the beach-side. And there's Roosevelt Harris, a young black kid who's family lives west of the railroad tracks. They meet at the basin of the local yacht club, where Jude fishes from the docks next to the yachts, while Roosevelt and his family fish with cane poles from the wall next to the street.
There's a bond that's formed between these two boys, and it's one that slowly grows and carries them through the ups and downs of a shared lifetime of experiences, some mutual and other separate. As they grow, we see them exposed to the drug subculture that was growing in America during that era, and also their first intimate experiences with local females. One could say that it was all part of that transitional period from childhood to adulthood known as coming of age, but in the case of Jude and Roosevelt, there was a dark side, and that had to do with narcotics.
Mike Pyle skillfully takes us through the decades of experiences of our protagonists, their families and and other who they encounter. We see that area of the South, with it's separate and labeled bathroom signs, the racial epithets used by law enforcement officers, all labels of a past part of regional American history. And we see how Jude and Roosevelt navigate the shoals of their experiences, bonded together by their roots from their youth as this novel moves to some surprising finales.
There are parts in the author's novel that will disturb some readers with the descriptive terminology, especially those dialogues involving intimacy and narcotics; there are others that will leave the reader hanging, wondering what will be the outcome of the relationship between the two main characters, whether the the bonds woven in their youth will become unraveled or survive their experiences over time.
As one who lived in the Daytona Beach area during my own high school years, and at a time within the framework of much of this book, I found that the author has painted an accurate setting of a time and events that made up an undercurrent of what people may have heard about, yet often avoided discussing. But this is no Florida travel guide, and don't expect it to be one. Readers of Susan Cheever's My Name Is Bill will find a lot in common with the life of Bill Wilson and his own real-life experiences.
Quick reviewer note: please do not get confused by the author name, depending on the edition you pick. Michael A. Pyle is an author and attorney, born and raised in Daytona Beach, Florida. He began writing this debut novel in the 1970s, wishing to describe racial and drug abuse experiences in his home town. He initially released this novel under the pen name E.G. Tripp, as indicated in the edition that I own.
Being critical, as reviewers are suppose to do, there were parts where White Sugar, Brown Sugar fell slightly flat with this reader, where parts could have been expanded further, yet it's clear that Mike Pyle is quite a skillful author and does know how to weave an interesting tale. Considering that it's his debut fictional offering, for this reader it was worthy of 4.5 stars, yet in hopes that he'll write another book, will round it up to a five-star novel.
The title is perfect, and on many levels. Highly recommended.
5.0 out of 5 stars White Sugar, Brown Sugar Review, November 7, 2012
By Jacqueline M Leonard (Daytona Beach Shores, Florida United States)
This book captured me from the beginning. The story was very realistic, and living in the Daytona area, I knew the places and landmarks exactly as they were described and felt like it was so true to life. The story linked the struggles of both the drug abuse and the overwhelming desire to be accepted and loved by each boy's parent in a way that was heartbreaking but genuine. I was moved by the journey of their lives.
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a great book, October 5, 2012
By Book Lover "Book Reader" (Maryland)
White Sugar, Brown Sugar is an amazing story of two boys growing up from different sides of the tracks. It covers a lot of ground including family, drugs, growing up and growing wise. I was drawn in immediately and very much enjoyed it. It also has a solid ending. There are portions that made me laugh and pages that made me sad. There is a lot of emotion in this book.
5.0 out of 5 stars What a great story!, March 23, 2013
By Judy Kilgore (DUFFIELD, VA, US)
I was intrigued from the opening chapter! I did not want to stop reading once I had started, however, life offered some necessary diversions and required that I pause occasionally! Living in Daytona Beach during my high school years, I could just see the locations they way they were in the late 60's. the story line was great. This was a side of life that I have never experienced, not sure I ever realized it was there in the sixties! The characters were so well developed that I felt I could see the action as I read. I could just feel the fear when the boys were in trouble. I held my breath when they faced their challenges. I cried at the end and smiled at the epilogue. Thanks for such a great story! This would be great for the big screen!!
5.0 out of 5 stars Gritty truth, March 20, 2013
By Beth Cain
This book shows the truth about addiction and how to recover from it, but in the form of a wonderful story. Based in Daytona Beach Fl, my own hometown, I can tell you this story is as a real as a fiction book can get. I look forward to more works from this author.
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