Hello, favorite and best book of 2017. This is a book that needs to be shouted from the rooftops, because it crawls into your bones and won’t release you from its spell.
Jesmyn Ward is a magnificent writer, as I discovered when I devoured Salvage the Bones. I’d heard that her newest novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing was short-listed for the National Book Award, so I grudgingly added to my library holds list, interrupting my read-the-books-on-my-shelf project once again. And what a worthy interruption.
This is a novel told from three perspectives: Jojo, a thirteen-year-old boy who functions as a grandchild to his loving and aging grandparents, caretaker of his toddler sister Kayla, and wary adolescent son of his drug-addicted mother, Leonie; Leonie, who is in conflict with herself, her parents, and her imprisoned boyfriend Michael, the children’s father; and Richie, a child from Parchman, an infamous Southern prison. To say anymore is to spoil the Homeric journey you will go on, and so I will only say, you must discover this book for yourself.
Ward writes Southern Gothic so well, it hurts. This is a piece of realistic fiction, epic poetry, and a ghost story of misunderstood love all in one. There are echoes of Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor, as well as Toni Morrison’s Beloved, but this is its own entity. The characters come alive in ways you do not expect, and Ward tackles social justice issues in African-American communities deftly.
This was absolutely my favorite book of the year, because the writing was stellar and inventive, the characters compelling, and the connections to history and contemporary issues biting. I’m beyond delighted that Ward has once again won the National Book Award, and I am already eager for the next book, whenever she decides to write it.
Cross-posted to my personal blog.