Sing, Unburied, Sing

Sing, Unburied, Sing

A Novel

Book - 2017
Average Rating:
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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"--
Publisher: New York : Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2017.
Edition: First Scribner hardcover edition.
Copyright Date: ©2017
ISBN: 9781501126062
1501126067
Branch Call Number: FIC WARD, JESMYN
Characteristics: 289 pages ; 23 cm

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mko123 Apr 04, 2018

11-year-old Jojo is the main caretaker of his toddler sister Kayla. His white father has been in prison for three years, and now his struggling, drug addicted mother forces him to go with her to pick up Michael as he gets released. Jojo's strength and grounding come from his maternal, African American grandparents, who have been raising him a good part of his life. Jojo also a sixth sense that allows him to understand the unspoken language of animals and people. But he is unnerved when he is visited by ghosts from the past. The brutalizing legacy of slavery shows its ugly face in this difficult story. There is gross injustice in this story,but also deep love and hope.

l
laphampeak
Apr 02, 2018

Unbeatable liteary style. Author writes in the dialect and cadence of the characters and their disposition, which happens to be Southern black and struggling with poverty and survival in a mixed race relationship with father in prison, and drug addicted mother. This portrayal is done beautifully and with grit. Ward throws in a couple etherial characters which, for me, interrupted the storyline. Definitely a story to chew on.

q
QnVz
Mar 23, 2018

An amazingly haunted tale. It was vivid and I found myself at the end like little Kayla asking, "Jojo?" Wonderful Southern Geechee-like tale!

AL_ANNAL Mar 17, 2018

A moving story, beautifully written. One cannot ignore or discount the legacy of slavery and our history of terrible discrimination after reading this. Love, nurturing, and dysfunction within a multi-generational family give this book its heart.

a
Amyjo30
Mar 15, 2018

I really enjoyed this book, and could not put it down, despite the content. It made me uncomfortable, (but isn't that what great literature does at times? Makes us uncomfortable!) It is a hard book to recommend, but I highly recommend it.

n
njon38
Mar 13, 2018

This was one of the most difficult books I have read recently and also one of the best. With lyrical prose and incredible insight the authors links the ghosts of our racist past with the desperation of a present day dysfunctional family, literal ghosts. She touches on the power of the sibling bond, the unconditional love grandparents have for their grandchildren, the mother- daughter bond, an imperfect mother who can't put her children's need above her own, and a interracial marriage in the south, and evil of the jim crow south. I can't praise this book enough

samcmar Mar 09, 2018

This was such a tense read. I found myself so absorbed in the characters and what was happening to them. This was also so hauntingly written that I was glued to each word. It makes a lot of sense as to why this book won the National Book Award for 2017. If you want to read something full of tension, that moves so quickly, and written so beautifully, this is worth checking out.

m
mogie
Mar 08, 2018

This is one of those books where it seems like nothing happens. Subtle, I guess it's subtle. I didn't hate it. I didn't love it. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone and I will probably forget I ever read it for those reasons.

r
ranvapa
Feb 28, 2018

This book is multi-layered.
On the surface, it is the story of a poor, dysfunctional family living amidst contemporary racism.
While the use of magical realism sometimes felt like it slowed down the pace of the story, it was a wonderful addition that forced you to more slowly digest the enormity of the violence felt by the community over the years.
There is so much symbolism - most of which I missed. I'm sure this will be a wonderful book to analyze in lit classes.

Plot summary: A 13 year old bi-racial boy lives (and cares for) his toddler sister, his emotionally distant and cruel mother, his loving black grandparents. He is estranged from his white grandparents, and his white father is in prison.
The mother, children, and a friend drive to pick up the father when he is released from prison, the same prison his grandfather was sent to years before for a crime he really didn't commit.
Upon their return, they try but fail to reunite with the white grandparents.
The ghost of a boy violently killed years ago in prison and the boy's uncle follow the characters and help pull out the history of racism and violence.
Many more ghosts are encountered in the very end. With the toddler's help, the ghosts are able to finally rest - indicating hope.

k
krsbozo
Feb 26, 2018

I know that I was supposed to love this novel, but I just couldn't deal with the content. The crushing sense of despair of the drug addled mother, and the craven sense of doom that pervaded the story just got to me. I had to stop reading before the end, and for that I'm sorry, but I couldn't continue.

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ranvapa
Mar 17, 2018

ranvapa thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

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