Book Review: Sing, Unburied, Sing

Book Review: Sing, Unburied, SingSing, Unburied, Sing
by Jesmyn Ward
on September 5th 2017
Pages: 285
Published by Scribner
Genres: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Multicultural

A searing and profound Southern odyssey by National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward.

Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she's high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie's children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.

Sing, Unburied, Sing grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations, of the bonds of family. Rich with Ward's distinctive, musical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an essential contribution to American literature.

My Takeaway

“Sorrow is food swallowed too quickly, caught in the throat, making it nearly impossible to breathe.”
Jesmyn Ward, Sing, Unburied, Sing

Though I finished this book days ago, I have taken my time writing this review because I want to do it justice. Sing, Unburied, Sing is unlike anything I have ever read. Ward is a perceptive, honest, and extremely skilled author (watch out universe!). It is not surprising her 2011 novel; Salvage the Bones was a National Book Award winner and I have no doubt this book will win numerous honors as well (it already is). Sing brought out all sorts of emotions: anger, sadness, outrage, hope, and joy. Some parts were difficult to read and there were times when I literally wanted to get into the book and slap some of the characters (especially Leonie). Jojo, Pop, Mam, Kayla, and the ghosts will stay with me for a very long time. I am still filled with so many feelings – and yes, sometimes the story was heartbreaking, but it was also packed with tender and beautiful moments. The novel deals with loss, love, racism, injustices, slavery, abuse, drugs, and spirituality (in a unique and remarkable way). If there’s one book you read this year it should be this one! Ward is changing the literature world and experience, and that makes me soooo happy!

A sincere thank you to Edelweiss and Scribner for granting me access to an arc of this amazing book – it was truly an honor. Oh, and of course I bought myself a copy of this compelling story.

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