At the heart of Colored Sugar Water are two women at the peak of their personal powers, finding life less satisfying than it should be and looking for more. This could be the makings of a bodice-ripper with little substance, were it not for the author’s spirituality. Venise Berry wants us to see these women, Adel and Lucy, develop inner as well as outer skins.
Adel is apparently the more pragmatic of the two, proud of her upper echelon job with an oil company. But she struggles with her conscience and vies with her employer over issues of compassion and racism. In defiance of the powers that be she pushes for on-site childcare, and ultimately realizes she has to go farther, take on a larger task, do more for her fellow human beings. But meanwhile she has to adjust to a new life growing within her, and the possibility of losing her man, Thad, when he confronts the prospect of fatherhood. Carrying the child, with all the problems that are created in that scenario, “Adel’s faith seemed to get stronger.” “Faith” is the name she gives her daughter, and acceptance of her calling to the ministry and of his new child draws Thad to her as she had never expected - “she realized there was no other explanation but the power of God.”
Lucy, growing up under the considerable influence of Madea Mayeaux, a healer and mystic of sorts, is torn between the bland but sweet (“colored sugar water”) love of Spencer, who wants to marry her, and the exotic erotic attraction she feels for Kuba, a psychic and possibly a phantom. Kuba’s pull on her sensual psyche is almost overwhelming, until Madea exerts her own power and makes Lucy acknowledge “That’s what you’ve always wanted, Lucinda - to be charmed… remember, his power is only power if you believe in it. You must stop believing.” Through Madea’s coaching and her own growing will to resist, Lucy puts an end to the magic spell Kuba has cast over her, and finds contentment with Spencer.
None of this happens without some interesting stops along the way. Berry has obviously researched her material well, from the bayou voodoo culture of Louisiana to the sophisticated world of a gulf oil company and the compromises demanded of its high level executives. There’s no doubt that Berry will develop a devoted readership.