Sing, Unburied, Sing
March 26, 2018 8:42 AM - by Jesmyn Ward - Subscribe

In her follow-up to Salvage the Bones, Ward returns to the fictional town of Bois Sauvage, Miss., and the stories of ordinary people who would be easy to classify dismissively into categories like “rural poor,” “drug-dependent,” “products of the criminal justice system.” Instead Ward gives us Jojo, a 13-year-old, and a road trip that he and his little sister take with his drug-addicted black mother to pick up their white father from prison. And there is nothing small about their existences. Their story feels mythic, both encompassing the ghosts of the past and touching on all the racial and social dynamics of the South as they course through this one fractured family. Ward’s greatest feat here is achieving a level of empathy that is all too often impossible to muster in real life, but that is genuine and inevitable in the hands of a writer of such lyric imagination.

This early favorite for this year's Tournament of Books lost its last round but may still get zombied back into play.
posted by DirtyOldTown (1 comment total)
I enjoyed this book a great deal. Thing is, I had sort of expected, based on the buzz I'd heard about it and the capsule description, that it would be among my handful of favorite books of the year. I had it as my pick in the ToB brackets to win. Instead, I liked it very much, but maybe not that much.

The Zora Neale Hurston-esque split between spoken vernacular and more literary narration by the same characters jarred me a bit, much more than NZH ever did with the same trick. And while I admired the empathy and the different perspectives we get from the POV-shifting, I also found the overall scope to weirdly cloistered. I kept getting this feeling like this world didn't extend more than a 1/4" off the side of the canvas, if that makes sense.

Very good book, though. I wouldn't fault anyone for naming it their best of year pick, but it did not quite get to those heights for me. This may be a weird side effect of ToB-following: I am damned near writing a negative review here because a book I liked and admired very much had the audacity of not being my favorite of the year after I'd picked it to win. That seems silly, even to me.

This is good and you should read it. Jesmyn Ward is wonderful.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:49 AM on March 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

« Older Tatort: Level X...   |  Book: Fever Dream... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments