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Finalist for the Kirkus Prize
Finalist for the Andrew Carnegie Medal
Publishers Weekly Top 10 of 2017
"The heart of Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing is story - the yearning for a narrative to help us understand ourselves, the pain of the gaps we'll never fill, the truths that are failed by words and must be translated through ritual and song...Ward's writing throbs with life, grief, and love, and this book is the kind that makes you ache to return to it." (Buzzfeed)
In Jesmyn Ward's first novel since her National Book Award-winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural 21st-century America. An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing journeys through Mississippi's past and present, examining the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power - and limitations - of family bonds.
Jojo is 13 years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn't lack in fathers to study, chief among them his black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent white father, Michael, who is being released from prison; his absent white grandfather, Big Joseph, who won't acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given, who died as a teenager.
His mother, Leonie, is an inconsistent presence in his and his toddler sister's lives. She is an imperfect mother in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is black, and her children's father is white. She wants to be a better mother but can't put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. Simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she's high, Leonie is embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances.
When the children's father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the state penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another 13-year-old boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He, too, has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.
Rich with Ward's distinctive, lyrical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an unforgettable family story.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By kurdis teed on 01-09-18
Is there anything you would change about this book?
The book is pretty good in parts, and it trails off in others.
What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)
The ending is where it trailed off for me, the last couple hours of the book. I think it was supposed to be dramatic, but it didn't come off that way to me.
Which scene was your favorite?
It doesn't really have a stand-out scene, but if I had to pick one, I'd say the scene where the family is pulled over by the policeman.
Do you think Sing, Unburied, Sing needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?
I don't think it does. I'm sure the author could make a follow-up book since the JoJo is young and Kayla is a baby, but I think the author should focus on a new story. Jesmyn Ward obviously has talent.
Any additional comments?
Overall the book is good but not great. The narrators handle this novel about as well as one can expect. I've noticed that other reviewers did not like Rutina Wesley's performance, but I thought she did a nice job. I've heard better books on Audible, and if I were to recommend a book to friend, it probably would be this one. Still, it was worth the time I spent on it. It's not long, and it kept my attention for most of the time.
12 of 12 people found this review helpful