Probably because I’ve read them both in the last month, I kept hearkening back to Lincoln in the Bardo. It certainly isn’t the best comparison, but the themes of grief and loss are persistent in both and very keenly unearthed by both authors. If anything, I went into this one knowing less and with more discovery awaiting me. It didn’t do as much more me (I still really, really loved the experimental nature of Lincoln), but I did really enjoy it. It’s like the book is haunting me.
This is the story of a family, centered on the 13-year-old boy, Jojo. Jojo’s mother is inattentive at best, his father has been in prison for 3 years. He and his baby sister are raised by his mother’s parents – his father’s parents are utterly, viciously absent from their lives. They are white, and his mother is black and the book gives us nothing to anchor us in time. This could be now, this could be forty years ago, and it’s gut-wrenching to recognize how little has changed.
The storytelling is very loose and moves fluidly around its full cast, giving us a view of everyone from all angles. You may not (you won’t) like them all, but you understand them. Mostly. I’ve also learned that I can’t really handle even reading about people throwing up. Ugh. Or type about it.
There’s no statement on racism in this book, it is simply fact. It is harrowing and senseless and cruel and there is no resolution in the novel because there is no resolution in life. And the prison industrial complex has got to go, y’all.
I’m sorry I have so little of substance to say here. I do recommend the book – you’ll be glad you read it even if you don’t enjoy reading it.