cover image Sweet Hope

Sweet Hope

Mary Bucci Bush. Guernica Editions (, $25 (402p) ISBN 978-1-55071-342-8

In her thoroughly researched and engaging novel, Bush (A Place of Light) sheds light on the little known fate of Italian immigrant laborers who came to America expecting opportunity, but ended up working alongside African-Americans as indentured servants on southern cotton plantations. The story explores the dynamic exchange between the two minorities as they struggle to define a complex social hierarchy. At the sardonically named Sweet Hope plantation, Italian workers struggle under the burden of inescapable debt. However, connections begin to form. Two families become intertwined%E2%80%93the Italian Pascalas and the African-American Halls. As the African-American sharecroppers are expected to help the Italians assimilate, teaching them English and how to harvest cotton, Step Hall arises as the natural leader and middleman between the Italian workers and the plantation management. The Italians must find a way to survive the harrowing conditions at Sweet Hope, where they live in perpetual poverty and disease, all under the threat of a dangerous manager. The narrative deftly weaves various characters' points of view to portray the harsh realities of plantation life as well as the hopes and strengths that workers struggled to maintain in a new land. (Nov.)