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Sing, Unburied, Sing
by Jesmyn Ward


Overview - 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.  Read more...


 
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More About Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
 
 
 
Overview
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.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781501126062
  • ISBN-10: 1501126067
  • Publisher: Scribner Book Company
  • Publish Date: September 2017
  • Page Count: 304
  • Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary
Books > Fiction > African American - General
Books > Fiction > Magical Realism

 
BookPage Reviews

American odyssey

From the opening pages of Sing, Unburied, Sing, Jesmyn Ward’s (Salvage the Bones) new novel, you know you’re in for a unique experience among the pecan trees and dusty roads of rural Mississippi. This intricately layered story combines mystical elements with a brutal view of racial tensions in the modern-day American South.

Ward shifts perspective among three characters: 13-year-old mixed-race boy Jojo, who lives with his mother and toddler sister, Kayla, in the home of his black grandparents, Mam and Pop; Leonie, Jojo’s black mother, who struggles with drug addiction and sees visions of her murdered brother; and Richie, a young boy who died decades earlier and whom 15-year-old Pop knew when they were at Parchman Farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary.

Jojo’s white father, Michael, the son of a man who abhors Leonie because she’s the black woman “his son had babies with,” has been in Parchman for many years. When Leonie learns of Michael’s release, she, Jojo and Kayla drive across Mississippi to pick him up. But the trip, which includes unexpected illnesses and a stop for drugs that Leonie wants to sell, is more eventful than the family had anticipated.

Visitations from dead people, tales of snakes that turn into “scaly birds” whose feathers allow recipients to fly—this material would have felt mannered in the hands of a lesser writer. But Ward skillfully weaves realistic and supernatural elements into a powerful narrative. The writing, though matter-of-fact in its depiction of prejudice, is poetic throughout, as when Jojo says that, as Michael hugs him after a fight with Leonie, “something in his face was pulled tight, wrong, like underneath his skin he was crisscrossed with tape.”

Sing, Unburied, Sing is an important work from an astute observer of race relations in 21st-century America.

 

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our Q&A with Jesmyn Ward for Sing, Unburied, Sing.

This article was originally published in the September 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews