Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
by Jesmyn Ward
Published by Scribner
on September 5th 2017
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 304
Goodreads

 

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

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.


I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher. This does not influence my thoughts on the book or this review.

I’ve read Jesmyn Ward’s nonfiction so when I saw that she had a new novel releasing, I was intrigued. Ward’s writing continues to be beautiful and engaging and her latest novel was definitely no different.

Sing, Unburied, Sing is difficult to describe. It’s about the South, Mississippi specifically, and one family’s journey. It’s about Jojo, a teen who wants to be like his grandfather and who wants to protect his little sister. It’s about Leonie, a mother who’s haunted by visions of her dead brother. It’s about Pop, a farmer who’s trying to teach his grandson how to be a good person. It’s also about Parchman, a State Penitentiary that haunts this family both in the past and the present. Ward manages to connect so many different characters, POVs and time periods in a seamless way that is just extraordinary.

I’m not sure what much there is to say because this novel is truly as phenomenal as it sounds. It’s brilliant and so well-written but definitely hard to describe. You’ll fall in love with the characters and definitely feel their pain and their sorrow. Sing, Unburied, Sing is a beautiful and emotional book and I promise you will not regret reading it.

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