... enthralling ... The style of The Taste of Sugar is heavily inflected with Spanish words and phrases, conveying the rich linguistic culture of this place. And sometimes, without warning, Vera drops her own narrative voice and shifts into the higher register of a character’s excited monologue. It’s a tremendously enlivening dramatic effect ... One of the many pleasures of this story stems from Vera’s emotional range ... a passionate love story purified in the crucible of suffering .... All these intimate and finely drawn details are nested within a masterful work of historical fiction that traces monumental economic and political currents ... Vera never reduces him or any of her characters to mere cogs in this vast system. Her vision is always grounded in this hard-working family, their struggles, their flaws, their persistent decency ... One of the great challenges of globe-spanning stories about the forces that raise and cripple nations is maintaining a fragile realm of free will in which ordinary characters can still act, even in their highly oppressed circumstances. That’s the rich feat of The Taste of Sugar. Here, the drama always stays rooted in the suspenseful ordeal of these farmers to whom we grow more and more attached. Vera writes as confidently about the mechanics of international markets as she does about the hopes whispered between grieving lovers.
Tapping into her Puerto Rican heritage and conducting plenty of research, Vera...presents a heartfelt depiction of once-proud coffee plantation hacendados...in very difficult times ... 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.
Vera’s saga is impeccably timed to provide insights into the troubling history of Puerto Rico’s relationship with the United States, and showing that the colonization of puertorriqueños extended to the Pacific fills a gap in history for many. Recommended for anyone who enjoys epic stories of hardship and loss as well as the perseverance, love, and strength drawn from one’s family and culture.
...[an] intense, emotional saga ... Vera pieces together the epic tale with acute moments of crushing pain and disillusion overcome by the strong characters’ implacable resilience. The novel’s deeply felt mixture of the characters’ sorrow and joy offers a vibrant glimpse of the history of Puerto Ricans in Hawaii.
A sprawling family epic that stretches from the mountains of Puerto Rico to Hawaii and across decades of love, famine, and war ...
Vera tells a grand story using innovative techniques. The chapters tend to be short and are frequently interspersed with letters, detours into the past, and theatrical monologues. The Vega and Sánchez families are made up of vivid, fully realized characters, and Vera has a knack for writing dialogue that is full of personality. Her descriptions of Puerto Rico’s natural beauty are impressive ... Where the novel runs ashore is in grappling with historical events. Vega chronicles the exploitation of Puerto Rico by the Spanish and then the Americans, and the reader will emerge with a deep sense of Puerto Rican history and suffering that has been lost to most Americans, but at times the author's devotion to historical details and anecdotes pushes the beautifully wrought characters aside ... Vera’s breakout novel is a sweeping, emotional tale that puts her characters, and her readers, through an emotional wringer.