Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a powerful voice in literary fiction and painfully raw story of a 13-year black boy, Jojo, who is shouldering the supernatural and adult world simultaneously, in other words has too much food on his plate. The writing is exquisitely crafted, like every word of every story is ready to pack an emotional punch.
Sometimes, the world don't give you what you need, no matter how hard you look. Sometimes, it withholds.
After his Leonie (his mother) becomes absent too often because she's out snorting pills, Jojo becomes a surrogate parent for his three year old sister, Kayla. His father is stuck in the Mississippi prison, also an absent figure from their lives. He learns about the discrimination of the black people in his family and ghosts that are around him, but he learns profound lessons that impact his worldview and how he perceives other people portrayal of him.
Living at their grandparent's farm in the deep South on the Gulf of Mississippi, Jojo learns a lot about how to be a black man, and hears stories of Pop's unfortunate stay in Parchman, the Mississippi Prison that haunt both of them in different ways. Ward is absolutely at the top of her writing game, this writing was the most lyrical piece of work that I've read in a long time; this may remain as on the top of my favorite list this year. This story is dark, so trigger warnings for abuse and violence.
She explores deep and complicated issues like abuse, race, incarceration, drug use, privilege and poverty, with the lens of balancing multiples POVs that are essentially interconnected to a car trip to get Jojo's father, Michael when he was released from prison. A lot of painfully sad things happen to Jojo and his sister Kayla, and so the author was able to create an opening for the empathy and sympathy that I deeply felt for these characters. The ability that Ward has to get to the very soul, the core of every core is so enlightening and excellent that closing this book felt like losing their essence.
I didn't understand time either, when I was young. How could I know that after I died, Parchman would pull me from the sky? How could I imagine Parchman would pull me to it and refuse to let go? And how could I conceive that Parchman was past, present and future all at once? That the history and sentiment that carved the place out of the wilderness would show me that time is a vast ocean and that everything is happening at once?
Interweaved throughout this story are the hidden stories of ghosts and the injustices in their past life. In that way, there is a prevalent is magical realism. There is lots of contemplation about the idea of home, what that means to each individual, and 'does the truth set you free?' We all know that life is messy; that why I'm a fan of untidy ending and this wraps up one perfect breath of a novel.
**Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.**
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