Sing, Unburied, Sing is brilliantly written. Ward immediately opens the story by showing you the strength of will and determination of thirteen year old JoJo to prove that he is ready and meant to be a man. Not just a man, but a man worthy of his grandfather's approval. I knew without a doubt, that if Ward delivered a scene that gripping right off the bat, that this book was going to be an emotionally difficult read. Sing, Unburied, Sing is a hard story to digest, but is written in such an amazing way that I didn't want to be spared it's rawness.
Ward directly shows and addresses the trauma that poverty, social injustice, grief, addiction, and disease inflicts on this entire family. The ghosts that appear in the story fill in the gaps that are important in understanding that what is happening in the present represent consequences of things that happened in the past. Leonie's inability to spare her children any of her passion and energy is terrible, and almost unforgivable, but even her selfishness has some reason behind it. Not necessarily an acceptable reason, but a reason. Mam and Pop share a past, that when revealed, provides plenty of reason for a haunting. But it's JoJo who will break your heart and then steal the pieces. His character will stick with me for a very long time.
Ward is unapologetic in her delivery of harsh reality and what an unjust destiny can deliver to a family. Nothing in this story is sugar coated, which forces Ward's readers to accept and process all of the bitterness that seems to outrun the sweet. Sing, Unburied, Sing is a devastating yet beautifully written story.
**I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.**
Listen to what Jesmyn Ward has to say about Sing, Unburied, Sing!
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.