Star rating: 5/5 stars
Synopsis: via 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.
General information: This was published in 2017 by Scribner.
I really don’t even know where to start to review this book. It was amazing! It really encapsulated the Southern, Gulf Coast vibe, especially the poverty and social issues you see in the area.
I loved the characters, they all felt so vivid. I just wanted to give Jojo and Kayla a hug. I even felt for their parents, Leonie and Michael, who made some bad (but totally understandable) decisions. And their grandparents, Pop and Mam, were probably my favorites in the book- they really stood out as interesting and loving people.
The supernatural was worked into the book really well- it was jarring, especially as you occasionally got a POV chapter from one of the ghosts, but deftly done.
The setting and descriptions were beautifully written. I felt like I was in the car with the characters. Some of the details will stay with me for a long time. At times this book was almost hard to read, but I couldn’t put it down.
This book was incredibly sad and occasionally upsetting but also incredibly hopeful and beautiful. I know I’ll be thinking about it for a long time, hence the five stars.
Overall, I highly recommend this! It really uses the fantasy elements to complement the story in a unique way. Definitely give it a shot if you haven’t already!
Have you read this book? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!