Sing, Unburied, Sing (Hardcover)
Sing, Unburied, Sing is the kind of book you come across once in a while. It is incredibly written and grabs you from the first page. Jesmyn Ward is able to make the words flow off the page and come to life as you are reading. She has a gift of description that one rarely sees. It is an amazing book that will stay with you long after you have read it.— Anna Flynn
Two new novels about family destiny, Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing and Alice Hoffman’s The Rules of Magic, distinctly explore how burdens of the past manifest for generations. Ward draws on elements of the Southern Gothic tradition while Hoffman’s novel harkens back to the Salem Witch Trials.
Jesmyn Ward's jolting, hypnotic novel takes us on a road trip in sultry, poverty stricken present day Mississippi Gulf Coast. We meet Jojo and his toddler sister Kayla living with their Grandpa and grandma, who is sick with cancer. Pops protects Jojo from painful family history, but when their father is released from Parchman Farm, their drug addicted mother Leonie fetches Jojo and Kayla, the novel becomes a modern day Odyssey. When ghosts of the past present themselves only to Jojo, he is the glue that often painfully binds the past and the present.
Alice Hoffman breezily guides us through the heady days of the 1960s in Greenwich Village with siblings, Franny, Jet, and Vincent. Their mother hoped to permanently distance them from relatives in Boston with clairvoyant powers and magical spells and potions. When they are summoned by an aunt, secrets are revealed and recipes are passed down. Hoffman’s signature use of the supernatural to shelter oneself from the heartbreaks of life-- at the expense of loving and losing-- is as smart as it is entertaining.
Hoffman’s novel--a prequel to her bestselling Practical Magic--focuses on the strength of family bonds through sorrow and joy provides relief from Ward’s fully immersive nod to great novelists like Faulkner and Morrison. Every family has a story and these two are both spellbinding and full of magic.
Sarah's review first appeared on 89.1 KMUW. Listen to the review HERE.— Sarah Bagby
*WINNER of the NATIONAL BOOK AWARD for FICTION
*A TIME MAGAZINE BEST NOVEL OF THE YEAR and A NEW YORK TIMES TOP 10 OF 2017
*Finalist for the Kirkus Prize
*Finalist for the Andrew Carnegie Medal
*Publishers Weekly Top 10 of 2017
*Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award "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 twenty-first-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 thirteen 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 thirteen-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.