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Sing, Unburied, Sing

Title: Sing, Unburied, Sing

Author: Jesmyn Ward

Genre: own voices, family struggles

My goal every year is to read as many own voices books as possible. The ones that stand out this year include Hurricane Summer, The Broken Earth series, Song of Solomon, Little Fires Everywhere, Miracle Creek, Leaving Atlanta, The Nickel Boys (book of the year for me), Monday’s Not Coming, and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. And I will definitely be adding Sing, Unburied, Sing to the list.

From Goodreads: 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.

The plot of this book is simple- drive to get this man from prison. But the plot, while meaningful, is the last thing that matters in this book. The language is just perfect. I just couldn’t believe how gorgeous some of the phrases were. The characters are rich and dynamic. Jojo is the best kid you could ask for. He’s kind and full of love for his sister and grandparents. But he also needs his mother’s love, which he will never earn…she’s not a good mother. The bond between Jojo and his sister, Kayla, is critical for her happiness. He’s the person she reaches for first every morning. And as a 13-year-old, he’s so thoughtful and gentle with her.

This book is the first I’ve read of Ward’s, but I will be reading Salvage the Bones for sure. I’m always so skeptical when EVERYONE loves a book, but this one absolutely lived up to the reviews. I cannot recommend this strongly enough.

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books and reading

Miracle Creek

I do not want to read a medical thriller. When I saw that prompt on the PopSugar Reading Challenge, I was sunk. I knew I was going to have to fudge this one. I have anxiety and can’t watch medical shows on tv. I have no desire to read anything medical related. A lot of people read The Silent Patient for this prompt, but I read that last year, so I was struggling to find something. Finally, some people in the reading challenge FB group mentioned this one, and I was sold. It’s mostly a legal thriller, light on the thrills, but it involves a medical situation. I had also been hearing what a good book it was, so off to my library I went.

Not only does this book have a legal focus, it also it an own voices book. The family involved is Korean, as the author, so she’s able to provide an authentic story of the family. The story follows the trial of a woman who is accused of murdering her autistic son. She has been trying an experimental treatment for him which puts him in an oxygen chamber twice a day to help his neurological processing. He’s in the chamber with several people who are also undergoing the treatment for various reasons. An explosion occurs, and the woman is accused of setting the fire.

The story unfolds with one secret revealed after another. As the trial progresses and new information is brought to light. you begin to see how twisted together all the participants are. The Korean family who owns the chamber as well as their clients are wrapped together in more ways than you expect. By the end, you really don’t know who set the fire because it could have been anyone, since they all seemed to have some hand in the crime, whether directly or indirectly.

This book was great. It was tightly written, kept me guessing, and was captivating from the first chapter. Whether you enjoy legal stories, own voices books, or a good mystery, this book will be perfect for you.

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books and reading

The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing

I really enjoy learning about other cultures. I’m a big fan of “own voices” books and try to add them to my reading list when possible. I am a part of the Great American Read group on Facebook and have gotten some amazing recommendations of culturally significant books. I’ve read and loved The Hate U Give, The Sun is Also a Star, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian, Dear Martin, The Kite Runner, Everything I Never Told You, Release, The Namesake, and Turtles All the Way Down. If you are looking for a good list of “own voices” novels try here: own voices.

TSGtD follows Amina living a mostly good life in Seattle with her cousin. Amina was once a photojournalist, but a difficult photo she took caused her too much stress, and she is now a wedding photographer. She gets a call from home that disrupts her life, pulling her back to her home of New Mexico. The story is told partly in flashbacks from when Amina was a child and a teenager and partly in the present day. Through the flashbacks, you learn about Amina’s parents coming to America to make a life for themselves, about Amina’s brother, Ahkil, and his struggles, but mostly about Amina trying to find herself and her place in the world.

As much as I love a good plot heavy book, there are times when a good story about an interesting character fits the bill. This is exactly that book. Amina is a wholly fleshed-out character, and you get to dig deep into her life. I read The Namesake about an Indian-American man trying to find his place in both worlds, and I feel like this one is very similar in nature. I loved both books for filling my world with captivating characters and culturally authentic situations.