Review: Sing, Unburied, Sing

My Rating: 4/5 stars

Verdict: Buy Borrow Bypass

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

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 twenty-first-century America. Drawing on Morrison and Faulkner, The Odyssey and the Old Testament, Ward gives us an epochal story, a journey through Mississippi’s past and present that is both an intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. Ward is a major American writer, multiply awarded and universally lauded, and in Sing, Unburied, Sing she is at the height of her powers.

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 Thoughts:

Wow, what a read! This novel tackles some important topics, including slavery, racism, family, and failure. I especially enjoyed the multi-generational family at the center of this novel, which is one of my favorite things to read about. Ward did a fantastic job examining how each generation makes mistakes, learns to live (or not) with their choices, and attempts to change things for the next generation.

Throughout this story, Ward shifts points of view. It alternates with each chapter so it never feels abrupt, which is often my complaint with multiple POV stories. I think it also helped that Ward’s view shifts were generational, ensuring that the reader heard from a variety of perspectives. And these perspectives were often shocking. Each character in this novel is complex, surprising, and disappointing. They aren’t disappointing from a writing standpoint, for these characters are supposed to disappoint the reader.

Leonie was, to me, the most interesting character and the one that disappointed me the most. I enjoyed reading about her internal struggles, as weird as that is to write, and I found her journey to be very realistic. She struggled so much with her grief and disappointments and loneliness and certainly never addresses them properly.

Wrap Up:

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! This was my first book by Jesmyn Ward but I think that’s going to change next year. Her writing is stunning and absolutely lyrical. This book would be great for fans of southern gothics.

This book is…

timely

memorable

dark

familial

hopeful

Publisher: Scribner

Genre: fiction

Page Count: 285

ISBN: 1501126067

Available here from Book Depository.

Have you read Sing, Unburied, Sing? What book are you currently reading?

I am an affiliate with Book Depository and as such, receive a tiny commission should you choose to click through any of the above links and purchase the book(s). Thank you for supporting A Word is Power!

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