Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sing, Unburied, Sing - by Jesmyn Ward: Book Review

Author: Jesmyn Ward
No. Pages: 304
Publisher: Scribner
Publishing Date: 5.09.2017
Format: Kindle

Despite being a page-turner - i.e. making me read because I wanted to learn what happens next and where the author takes the plot and characters, this book did not impress. 

I kept thinking that I am most certainly missing something, I was sure there is some deeper meaning and layer I don't get, some symbolism or metaphors I can't grasp. 

Honestly, this novel is not very original. Mothers and fathers who love their partner and addictions more than their children, grandparents looking after their grandchildren, children who are more mature than their age - all these bits of drama and hardship you can see in other books as well, dealing or not with the problem of race. 

This is the kind of book that I am sure makes perfect sense to the author when written, but not to me as a reader. I found it to be forced, as if the author tried too much to make is deep and gripping, trying to make it sound poetic. Such an example would be (sorry, spoiler ahead) when Mam was dying, with Given and Richie present, and there were alternating voices. It was too much for something that in the end didn't take or lead anywhere.  

If I understood it correctly, this novel wants to be truthful to life in the South, to show the cruelty towards people of colour. If this wants to be an authentic presentation, although fictional and literary, why the voices of plants and animals, why the ghosts? All these elements distracted from the severity of what African-Americans in US endured. Thinking back on this, all these horrible things were mostly hinted to, as if an afterthought because it was mandatory: imprisoning, bloodhound, injustice for the people of colour. It seemed as if there were two distinctive parts, with little to make them merge smoothly: Leonie's, Jojo's, and their family's drama, and Richie and Rev's and their past secret. I  A too large part was occupied by Leonie and her thoughts. I was more interested in Jojo's voice, and even Rev and Richie's.

It is a fast read, but besides being compelling, I didn't find it very impressive. However, maybe this is just not for me.

I receive a free e-book copy of the book from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.

List of Characters: (may contain spoilers)
Jojo - 13 year old boy
Kayla (Michaela) - toddler, Jojo's sister
Leonie - their mother. drug addict. has visions of her dead brother, Given, when she's high
Michael - their father - white. beginning: Parchman Farm Penitentiary
Mam (Philomene) - children's grandmother, sick of cancer
Pap (River) - children's grandfather
Big Joseph and Maggie - Michael's parents
Misty - Leonie's friend. travels with her to Parchman. her husband is imprisoned as well.
Gloria - Leonie and Misty's employer, bar owner
Richie (Richard) - a young man imprisoned the same time Riv/Pap was imprisoned. killed by River so he won't be caught by the men hunting him.
Al - Michael's lawyer
Kinnie Wagner - dog overseer when River and Richie were in Parchman
Fred and Carlotta - friends of Misty's, drug dealers.

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