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The House at Sugar Beach: A Memoir | [Helene Cooper]

The House at Sugar Beach: A Memoir

At once a deeply personal memoir and an examination of a violent and stratified country, The House at Sugar Beach tells of tragedy, forgiveness, and transcendence with unflinching honesty and a survivor's gentle humor. And at its heart, it is a story of Helene Cooper's long voyage home.
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Publisher's Summary

Helene Cooper grew up at Sugar Beach, a 22-room mansion by the sea. Her childhood was filled with servants, flashy cars, a villa in Spain, and a farmhouse up-country. It was also an African childhood, filled with knock foot games and hot pepper soup, heartmen, and neegee.

When Helene was eight, the Coopers took in a foster child - a common custom among the Liberian elite. Eunice, a Bassa girl, suddenly became known as "Mrs. Cooper's daughter".

For years, the Cooper daughters - Helene, her sister Marlene, and Eunice - blissfully enjoyed the trappings of wealth and advantage. But Liberia was like an unwatched pot of water left boiling on the stove. And on April 12, 1980, a group of soldiers staged a coup d'état, assassinating President William Tolbert and executing his cabinet.

The Coopers and the entire Congo class were now the hunted, being imprisoned, shot, tortured, and raped. After a brutal daylight attack by a ragtag crew of soldiers, Helene, Marlene, and their mother fled Sugar Beach, and then Liberia, for America. They left Eunice behind.

A world away, Helene tried to assimilate as an American teenager. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill she found her passion in journalism, eventually becoming a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She reported from every part of the globe - except Africa - as Liberia descended into war-torn, third-world hell. But in 2003 a near-death experience in Iraq convinced Helene that Liberia - and Eunice - could wait no longer.

At once a deeply personal memoir and an examination of a violent and stratified country, The House at Sugar Beach tells of tragedy, forgiveness, and transcendence with unflinching honesty and a survivor's gentle humor. And at its heart, it is a story of Helene Cooper's long voyage home.

©2008 Helene Cooper; (P)2008 Simon & Schuster Audio

What the Critics Say

"Rendered with aching nostalgia and wonderful language [it] is a voyage of return, through which the author seeks to recover the past and to find that missing sister, even as the war deepens over the years to come." (Kirkus)
"Among Cooper's aims in becoming a journalist were to reveal the atrocities committed in her native country. With amazing forthrightness, she has done so, delivering an eloquent, if painful, history of the African migratory experience." (Ms. Magazine)
"Helene Cooper's memoir is a remarkable page-turner: gripping, perceptive, sometimes hilarious, and always moving." (Jeffrey D. Sachs)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (152 )
5 star
 (78)
4 star
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2 star
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Overall
4.1 (42 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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Story
4.3 (44 )
5 star
 (28)
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Gregory Han Key Biscayne, FL United States 01-25-10
    Gregory Han Key Biscayne, FL United States 01-25-10 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Reader made this book for me."

    Helene Cooper has basically written an autobiography set in Liberia. Her voice, especially when she uses Liberian English, is wonderful. This book covers history of Liberia, which is little known to most Americans. She is a journalist and perhaps that is why the words flow so smoothly. I highly recommend this as a book more enjoyable to listen to than to read just to fall under the spell of her cadence.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jamie Toronto, ON, Canada 07-20-09
    Jamie Toronto, ON, Canada 07-20-09 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Utterly compelling"

    This is a fascinating, sharply-written memoir of a privileged childhood in Liberia, interrupted by a coup and the upheaval of immigration. Cooper's depiction of her childhood is a skillful blend of warm remembrance underscored with a growing sense of trouble and fear, lit with flashes of humour. She makes you care -- about her individual family members, about her struggle to adapt to her new life in the United States, and especially, about the history of Liberia. Oh -- and Cooper's narration is fantastic! I didn't want to miss a single word.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jo 01-12-10
    jo 01-12-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "excellent"

    i loved this book. i read the first fifty pages because my girlfriend has it and then bought it on audible to listen to the rest and i'm so glad i did. the narration by the author makes the liberian english come alive. reading "i hold your foot" and hearing how she says it are like two different phrases, one seeming strange and one sounding perfect. also knowing that the voice you are hearing narrate is the same person who experienced the events is moving in a way reading the book cannot be. that said, the narration would be less relevant if the writing writing wasn't really, really good.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patricia 09-29-09
    Patricia 09-29-09 Member Since 2009
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    "The House at Sugar Beach"

    What makes The House at Sugar Beach such a worthwhile and meaningful book, is its many layers. It is a memoir, a history of Liberia and its realationsnip to America, a coming of age story, a story of family, separation, loss, and just like in fiction, triumph. Listening to Helene Cooper's narration of her book, brings it to life as she seemlessly floats between "regular" English and Liberian English. This book is a gem!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leo Free Fort Worth, TX USA 09-10-08
    Leo Free Fort Worth, TX USA 09-10-08 Member Since 2008

    Art Scents

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Thankful!"

    I'm thankful Helene and members of her family are here to share their story. I am thankful that Eunice lives, with love surrounding her. I'm thankful Helene truly is an American story come in a strangely wonderful circle of hope escaping or triumphing through pain. I'm thankful to discover Liberia, our corporate homeland. Thank you, Helene for sharing your memoir with us.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. Broadlands, VA, United States 09-14-08
    J. Broadlands, VA, United States 09-14-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "10 Stars"

    This well may be the best book I've listened to in many years. Having the author narrate this book is definitely a bonus because she speaks in the native language throughout the book and it really adds to the experience. Wonderful story.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janet Wayzata, MN, United States 11-06-12
    Janet Wayzata, MN, United States 11-06-12
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    "Memoir of American/African woman"
    What made the experience of listening to The House at Sugar Beach the most enjoyable?

    The story plugs you into the life of a teen in Liberia and her family struggles.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    I liked it all because it was her story.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    I was interested in hearing more but it took a few sittings


    Any additional comments?

    I want to know how her life continues. She feels like a friend

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Edwin Williamson 06-21-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Fabulous true story"

    This is a terrific book, and the author does a wonderful job reading it. I was so sorry when it ended, but am happy to know I can read the author's columns in the NYT and see her, occasionally on the News Hour.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    jimmy PLANO, TX, United States 12-08-11
    jimmy PLANO, TX, United States 12-08-11
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    3
    3
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    Story
    "Great listen"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The House at Sugar Beach to be better than the print version?

    This was my first audible book and I enjoyed listening to the story. I thought the first half of the book was great and it slowed in the second half. Overall, I would recommend the book for its historical value. Audible books are great and audible.com is the place to get them.


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    I think I was suppose to feel sorry for the family, but I found myself feeling neutral.


    Have you listened to any of Helene Cooper’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    This was my first audible book and Helene was very good. She brought life to the book with her accent.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    The greatness of American everywhere


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Caroline Stevens Point, WI, USA 03-02-10
    Caroline Stevens Point, WI, USA 03-02-10
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    "Great!"

    This was a great book, well written. Very interesting history of Liberia.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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