Finden Sie Ihren nächsten buch Favoriten

Werden Sie noch heute Mitglied und lesen Sie 30 Tage kostenlos
Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel

Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel

Vorschau lesen

Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel

Bewertungen:
4/5 (175 Bewertungen)
Länge:
318 Seiten
5 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Sep 5, 2017
ISBN:
9781501126093
Format:
Buch

Anmerkung des Herausgebers

Beauty that lingers…

This winner of the 2017 National Book Award draws on Morrison, Faulkner, and Greek myths to play with the classic American road novel, weaving magical realism into the modern, rural South. Sentences rise together to form a penetrating story that lingers like fog on the Mississippi bayou where the novel is set.

Beschreibung

From Scribd: About the Book

Thirteen-year-old Jojo lives with his grandparents — Mam and Pop — and his toddler-age little sister. His White father, Michael, is absent and in prison. His mother, Leonie, is inconsistent and struggles with addiction. His White grandfather refuses to acknowledge his existence. His Uncle Given passed away as a teenager. Despite all this, Jojo does not have to look far to find a strong man and father figure to study. His African American grandfather, Pop, teaches him how to be a man.

When Michael is released from prison, Leonie picks up Jojo and his little sister to drive to the State Penitentiary. There, Jojo encounters the ghost of a thirteen-year-old boy who teaches him about the ugly past, legacies, violence, and love.

Sing, Unburied, Sing is the second National Book Award-winning story from Jesmyn Ward. It is a New York Times Top 10 Best Book of the Year. It was also a finalist for the Kirkus Prize, Andrew Carnegie Medal, and Aspen Words Literary Prize.

Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Sep 5, 2017
ISBN:
9781501126093
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

Jesmyn Ward received her MFA from the University of Michigan and has received the MacArthur Genius Grant, a Stegner Fellowship, a John and Renee Grisham Writers Residency, and the Strauss Living Prize. She is the winner of two National Book Awards for Fiction for Sing, Unburied, Sing (2017) and Salvage the Bones (2011). She is also the author of the novel Where the Line Bleeds and the memoir Men We Reaped, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize and the Media for a Just Society Award. She is currently an associate professor of creative writing at Tulane University and lives in Mississippi.


Ähnlich wie Sing, Unburied, Sing

Ähnliche Bücher

Buchvorschau

Sing, Unburied, Sing - Jesmyn Ward

Walcott

Chapter 1

Jojo

I like to think I know what death is. I like to think that it’s something I could look at straight. When Pop tell me he need my help and I see that black knife slid into the belt of his pants, I follow Pop out the house, try to keep my back straight, my shoulders even as a hanger; that’s how Pop walks. I try to look like this is normal and boring so Pop will think I’ve earned these thirteen years, so Pop will know I’m ready to pull what needs to be pulled, separate innards from muscle, organs from cavities. I want Pop to know I can get bloody. Today’s my birthday.

I grab the door so it don’t slam, ease it into the jamb. I don’t want Mam or Kayla to wake up with none of us in the house. Better for them to sleep. Better for my little sister, Kayla, to sleep, because on nights when Leonie’s out working, she wake up every hour, sit straight up in the bed, and scream. Better for Grandma Mam to sleep, because the chemo done dried her up and hollowed her out the way the sun and the air do water oaks. Pop weaves in and out of the trees, straight and slim and brown as a young pine tree. He spits in the dry red dirt, and the wind makes the trees wave. It’s cold. This spring is stubborn; most days, it won’t make way for warmth. The chill stays like water in a bad-draining tub. I left my hoodie on the floor in Leonie’s room, where I sleep, and my T-shirt is thin, but I don’t rub my arms. If I let the cold goad me, I know when I see the goat, I’ll flinch or frown when Pop cuts the throat. And Pop, being Pop, will see.

Better to leave the baby asleep, Pop says.

Pop built our house himself, narrow in the front and long, close to the road so he could leave the rest of the property wooded. He put his pigpen and his goat yard and the chicken coop in small clearings in the trees. We have to walk past the pigpen to get to the goats. The dirt is black and muddy with shit, and ever since Pop whipped me when I was six for running around the pen with no shoes on, I’ve never been barefoot out here again. You could get worms, Pop had said. Later that night, he told me stories about him and his sisters and brothers when they were young, playing barefoot because all they had was one pair of shoes each and them for church. They all got worms, and when they used the outhouse, they pulled worms out of their butts. I don’t tell Pop, but that was more effective than the whipping.

Pop picks the unlucky goat, ties a rope around its head like a noose, leads it out the pen. The others bleat and rush him, butting his legs, licking his pants.

Get! Get! Pop says, and kicks them away. I think the goats understand each other; I can see it in the aggressive butts of their heads, in the way they bite Pop’s pants and yank. I think they know what that loose rope tied around the goat’s neck means. The white goat with black splashes on his fur dances from side to side, resisting, like he catches a whiff of what he is walking toward. Pop pulls him past the pigs, who rush the fence and grunt at Pop, wanting food, and down the trail toward the shed, which is closer to the house. Leaves slap my shoulders, and they scratch me dry, leaving thin white lines scrawled on my arms.

Why you ain’t got more of this cleared out, Pop?

Ain’t enough space, Pop says. And don’t nobody need to see what I got back here.

You can hear the animals up front. From the road.

And if anybody come back here trying to mess with my animals, I can hear them coming through these trees.

You think any of the animals would let themselves get took?

No. Goats is mean and pigs is smarter than you think. And they vicious, too. One of them pigs’ll take a bite out of anybody they ain’t used to eating from.

Pop and I enter the shed. Pop ties the goat to a post he’s driven into the floor, and it barks at him.

Who you know got all they animals out in the open? Pop says. And Pop is right. Nobody in Bois has their animals out in the open in fields, or in the front of their property.

The goat shakes its head from side to side, pulls back. Tries to shrug the rope. Pop straddles it, puts his arm under the jaw.

The big Joseph, I say. I want to look out the shed when I say it, over my shoulder at the cold, bright green day, but I make myself stare at Pop, at the goat with its neck being raised to die. Pop snorts. I hadn’t wanted to say his name. Big Joseph is my White grandpa, Pop my Black one. I’ve lived with Pop since I was born; I’ve seen my White grandpa twice. Big Joseph is round and tall and looks nothing like Pop. He don’t even look like Michael, my father, who is lean and smudged with tattoos. He picked them up like souvenirs from wannabe artists in Bois and out on the water when he worked offshore and in prison.

Well, there you go, Pop says.

Pop wrestles the goat like it’s a man, and the goat’s knees buckle. It falls face forward in the dirt, turns its head to the side so it’s looking up at me with its cheek rubbing the dusty earth and bloody floor of the shed. It shows me its soft eye, but I don’t look away, don’t blink. Pop slits. The goat makes a sound of surprise, a bleat swallowed by a gurgle, and then there’s blood and mud everywhere. The goat’s legs go rubbery and loose, and Pop isn’t struggling anymore. All at once, he stands up and ties a rope around the goat’s ankles, lifting the body to a hook hanging from the rafters. That eye: still wet. Looking at me like I was the one who cut its neck, like I was the one bleeding it out, turning its whole face red with blood.

You ready? Pop asks. He glances at me then, quickly. I nod. I’m frowning, my face drawn tight. I try to relax as Pop cuts the goat along the legs, giving the goat pant seams, shirt seams, lines all over.

Grab this here, Pop says. He points at a line on the goat’s stomach, so I dig my fingers in and grab. It’s still warm, and it’s wet. Don’t slip, I say to myself. Don’t slip.

Pull, Pop says.

I pull. The goat is inside out. Slime and smell everywhere, something musty and sharp, like a man who ain’t took a bath in some days. The skin peels off like a banana. It surprises me every time, how easy it comes away once you pull. Pop yanking hard on the other side, and then he’s cutting and snapping the hide off at the feet. I pull the skin down the animal’s leg to the foot, but I can’t get it off like Pop, so he cuts and snaps.

Other side, Pop says. I grab the seam near the heart. The goat’s even warmer here, and I wonder if his panicked heart beat so fast it made his chest hotter, but then I look at Pop, who’s already snapping the skin off the end of the goat’s foot, and I know my wondering’s made me slow. I don’t want him to read my slowness as fear, as weakness, as me not being old enough to look at death like a man should, so I grip and yank. Pop snaps the skin off at the animal’s foot, and then the animal sways from the ceiling, all pink and muscle, catching what little light there is, glistening in the dark. All that’s left of the goat is the hairy face, and somehow this is even worse than the moment before Pop cut its throat.

Get the bucket, Pop says, so I get the metal tub from one of the shelves at the back of the shed, and I pull it under the animal. I pick up the skin, which is already turning stiff, and I dump it into the tub. Four sheets of it.

Pop slices down the center of the stomach, and the innards slide out and into the tub. He’s slicing and the smell overwhelms like a faceful of pig shit. It smells like foragers, dead and rotting out in the thick woods, when the only sign of them is the stink and the buzzards rising and settling and circling. It stinks like possums or armadillos smashed half flat on the road, rotting in asphalt and heat. But worse. This smell is worse; it’s the smell of death, the rot coming from something just alive, something hot with blood and life. I grimace, wanting to make Kayla’s stink face, the face she makes when she’s angry or impatient; to everyone else, it looks like she’s smelled something nasty: her green eyes squinting, her nose a mushroom, her twelve tiny toddler teeth showing through her open mouth. I want to make that face because something about scrunching up my nose and squeezing the smell away might lessen it, might cut off that stink of death. I know it’s the stomach and intestines, but all I can see is Kayla’s stink face and the soft eye of the goat and then I can’t hold myself still and watch no more, then I’m out the door of the shed and I’m throwing up in the grass outside. My face is so hot, but my arms are cold.

*  *  *

Pop steps out of the shed, and he got a slab of ribs in his fist. I wipe my mouth and look at him, but he’s not looking at me, he’s looking at the house, nodding toward it.

Thought I heard the baby cry. You should go check on them.

I put my hands in my pockets.

You don’t need my help?

Pop shakes his head.

I got it, he says, but then he looks at me for the first time and his eyes ain’t hard no more. You go ahead. And then he turns and goes back to the shed.

Pop must have misheard, because Kayla ain’t awake. She’s lying on the floor in her drawers and her yellow T-shirt, her head to the side, her arms out like she’s trying to hug the air, her legs wide. A fly is on her knee, and I brush it away, hoping it hasn’t been on her the whole time I’ve been out in the shed with Pop. They feed on rot. Back when I was younger, back when I still called Leonie Mama, she told me flies eat shit. That was when there was more good than bad, when she’d push me on the swing Pop hung from one of the pecan trees in the front yard, or when she’d sit next to me on the sofa and watch TV with me, rubbing my head. Before she was more gone than here. Before she started snorting crushed pills. Before all the little mean things she told me gathered and gathered and lodged like grit in a skinned knee. Back then I still called Michael Pop. That was when he lived with us before he moved back in with Big Joseph. Before the police took him away three years ago, before Kayla was born.

Each time Leonie told me something mean, Mam would tell her to leave me alone. I was just playing with him, Leonie would say, and each time she smiled wide, brushed her hand across her forehead to smooth her short, streaked hair. I pick colors that make my skin pop, she told Mam. Make this dark shine. And then: Michael love it.

I pull the blanket up over Kayla’s stomach and lie next to her on the floor. Her little foot is warm in my hand. Still asleep, she kicks off the cover and grabs at my arm, pulling it up to her stomach, so I hold her before settling again. Her mouth opens and I wave at the circling fly, and Kayla lets off a little snore.

*  *  *

When I walk back out to the shed, Pop’s already cleaned up the mess. He’s buried the foul-smelling intestines in the woods, and wrapped the meat we’ll eat months later in plastic and put it in the small deep-freezer wedged in a corner. He shuts the door to the shed, and when we walk past the pens I can’t help avoiding the goats, who rush the wooden fence and bleat. I know they are asking after their friend, the one I helped kill. The one who Pop carries pieces of now: the tender liver for Mam, which he will sear barely so the blood won’t run down her mouth when he sends me in to feed it to her; the haunches for me, which he will boil for hours and then smoke and barbecue to celebrate my birthday. A few of the goats wander off to lick at the grass. Two of the males skitter into each other, and then one head-butts the other, and they are fighting. When one of the males limps off and the winner, a dirty white color, begins bullying a small gray female, trying to mount her, I pull my arms into my sleeves. The female kicks at the male and bleats. Pop stops next to me and waves the fresh meat in the air to keep flies from it. The male bites at the female’s ear, and the female makes a sound like a growl and snaps back.

Is it always like that? I ask Pop. I’ve seen horses rearing and mounting each other, seen pigs rutting in the mud, heard wildcats at night shrieking and snarling as they make kittens.

Pop shakes his head and lifts the choice meats toward me. He half smiles, and the side of his mouth that shows teeth is knife-sharp, and then the smile is gone.

No, he says. Not always. Sometimes it’s this, too.

The female head-butts the neck of the male, screeching. The male skitters back. I believe Pop. I do. Because I see him with Mam. But I see Leonie and Michael as clearly as if they were in front of me, in the last big fight they had before Michael left us and moved back in with Big Joseph, right before he went to jail: Michael threw his jerseys and his camouflage pants and his Jordans into big black garbage bags, and then hauled his stuff outside. He hugged me before he left, and when he leaned in close to my face all I could see were his eyes, green as the pines, and the way his face turned red in splotches: his cheeks, his mouth, the edges of his nose, where the veins were little scarlet streams under the skin. He put his arms around my back and patted once, twice, but those pats were so light, they didn’t feel like hugs, even though something in his face was pulled tight, wrong, like underneath his skin he was crisscrossed with tape. Like he would cry. Leonie was pregnant with Kayla then, and already had Kayla’s name picked out and scrawled with nail polish on her car seat, which had been my car seat. Leonie was getting bigger; her stomach looked like she had a Nerf basketball shoved under her shirt. She followed Michael out on the porch where I stood, still feeling those two little pats on my back, soft as a weak wind, and Leonie grabbed him by the collar and pulled and slapped him on the side of the head, so hard it sounded loud and wet. He turned and grabbed her by her arms, and they were yelling and breathing hard and pushing and pulling each other across the porch. They were so close to each other, their hips and chests and faces, that they were one, scuttling, clumsy like a hermit crab over sand. And then they were leaning in close to each other, speaking, but their words sounded like moans.

I know, Michael said.

You ain’t never known, Leonie said.

Why you push me like this?

You go where you want, Leonie said, and then she was crying and they were kissing, and they only moved apart when Big Joseph pulled onto the dirt driveway and stopped, just so his truck was out of the street and in the yard. He didn’t lay on the horn or wave or nothing, just sat there, waiting for Michael. And then Leonie walked away from him and slammed the door and disappeared back into the house, and Michael looked down at his feet. He’d forgot to put shoes on, and his toes were red. He breathed hard and grabbed his bags, and the tattoos on his white back moved: the dragon on his shoulder, the scythe down his arm. A grim reaper between his shoulder blades. My name, Joseph, at the root of his neck in between ink prints of my baby feet.

I’ll be back, he said, and then he jumped down off the porch, shaking his head and hauling his garbage bags over his shoulder, and walked over to the truck, where his daddy, Big Joseph, the man who ain’t never once said my name, waited. Part of me wanted to give him the bird when he pulled out of the driveway, but more of me was scared that Michael would jump back out of the truck and whip me, so I didn’t. Back then I didn’t realize how Michael noticed and didn’t notice, how sometimes he saw me and then, whole days and weeks, he didn’t. How, in that moment, I didn’t matter. Michael hadn’t looked back after he jumped off the porch, hadn’t even looked up after he threw his bags into the bed of the pickup truck and got into the front seat. He seemed like he was still concentrating on his red, naked feet. Pop says a man should look another man in the face, so I stood there, looking at Big Joseph putting the truck in reverse, at Michael looking down at his lap, until they pulled out of the driveway and went down the street. And then I spat the way Pop does, and jumped off the porch and ran around to the animals in their secret rooms in the back woods.

Come on, son, Pop says. When he begins walking toward the house, I follow, trying to leave the memory of Leonie and Michael fighting outside, floating like fog in the damp, chilly day. But it follows, even as I follow the trail of tender organ blood Pop has left in the dirt, a trail that signals love as clearly as the bread crumbs Hansel spread in the wood.

*  *  *

The smell of the liver searing in the pan is heavy in the back of my throat, even through the bacon grease Pop dribbled on it first. When Pop plates it, the liver smells, but the gravy he made to slather on it pools in a little heart around the meat, and I wonder if Pop did that on purpose. I carry it to Mam’s doorway, but she’s still asleep, so I bring the food back to the kitchen, where Pop drapes a paper towel over it to keep it warm, and then I watch him chop up the meat and seasoning, garlic and celery and bell pepper and onion, which makes my eyes sting, and set it to boil.

If Mam and Pop were there on the day of Leonie and Michael’s fight, they would have stopped it. The boy don’t need to see that, Pop would say. Or You don’t want your child to think that’s how you treat another person, Mam might’ve said. But they weren’t there. It’s not often I can say that. They weren’t there because they’d found out that Mam was sick with cancer, and so Pop was taking her back and forth to the doctor. It was the first time I could remember they were depending on Leonie to look after me. After Michael left with Big Joseph, it felt weird to sit across the table from Leonie and make a fried potato sandwich while she stared off into space and crossed her legs and kicked her feet, let cigarette smoke seep out of her lips and wreathe her head like a veil, even though Mam and Pop hated when she smoked in the house. To be alone with her. She ashed her cigarettes and put them out in an empty Coke she had been drinking, and when I bit into the sandwich, she said:

That looks disgusting.

She’d wiped her tears from her fight with Michael, but I could still see tracks across her face, dried glossy, from where they’d fallen.

Pop eat them like this.

You got to do everything Pop do?

I shook my head because it seemed like what she expected from me. But I liked most of the things Pop did, liked the way he stood when he spoke, like the way he combed his hair back straight from his face and slicked it down so he looked like an Indian in the books we read in school on the Choctaw and Creek, liked the way he let me sit in his lap and drive his tractor around the back, liked the way he ate, even, fast and neat, liked the stories he told me before I went to sleep. When I was nine, Pop was good at everything.

You sure act like it.

Instead of answering, I swallowed hard. The potatoes were salty and thick, the mayonnaise and ketchup spread too thin, so the potatoes stuck in my throat a little bit.

Even that sounds gross, Leonie said. She dropped her cigarette into the can and pushed it across the table to me where I stood eating. Throw that away.

She walked out the kitchen into the living room and picked up one of Michael’s baseball caps that he’d left on the sofa, before pulling it low over her face.

I’ll be back, she said.

Sandwich in hand, I trotted after her. The door slammed and I pushed through it. You going to leave me here by myself? I wanted to ask her, but the sandwich was a ball in my throat, lodged on the panic bubbling up from my stomach; I’d never been home alone.

Mama and Pop be home soon, she said as she slammed her car door. She drove a low maroon Chevy Malibu that Pop and Mam had bought her when she’d graduated from high school. Leonie pulled out the driveway, one hand out the window to catch the air or wave, I couldn’t tell which, and she was gone.

Something about being alone in the too-quiet house scared me, so I sat on the porch for a minute, but then I heard a man singing, singing in a high voice that sounded all wrong, singing the same words over and over. Oh Stag-o-lee, why can’t you be true? It was Stag, Pop’s oldest brother, with a long walking stick in hand. His clothes looked hard and oily, and he swung that stick like an axe. Whenever I saw him, I couldn’t never make out any sense to anything he said; it was like he was speaking a foreign language, even though I knew he was speaking English: he walked all over Bois Sauvage every day, singing, swinging a stick. Walked upright like Pop, proud like Pop. Had the same nose Pop had. But everything else about him was nothing like Pop, was like Pop had been wrung out like a wet rag and then dried up in the wrong shape. That was Stag. I’d asked Mam once what was wrong with him, why he always smelled like armadillo, and she had frowned and said: He sick in the head, Jojo. And then: Don’t ask Pop about this.

I didn’t want him to see me, so I jumped off and ran around the back to the woods. There was comfort in that, in hearing the pigs snuffle and the goats tear and eat, in seeing the chickens peck and scratch. I didn’t feel so small or alone. I squatted in the grass, watching them, thinking I could almost hear them talk to me, that I could hear them communicate. Sometimes when I looked at the fat pig with splashed black spots on his side, he’d grunt and flap his ears, and I’d think he meant to say: Scratch here, boy. When the goats licked my hand and head-butted me while nibbling at my fingers and bleated, I heard: The salt is so sharp and good—more salt. When the horse Pop keeps bowed his head and shimmied and bucked so that his sides gleamed like wet red Mississippi mud, I understood: I could leap over your head, boy, and oh I would run and run and you would never see anything more than that. I could make you shake. But it scared me to understand them, to hear them. Because Stag did that, too; Stag stood in the middle of the street sometimes and had whole conversations with Casper, the shaggy black neighborhood dog.

But it was impossible to not hear the animals, because I looked at them and understood, instantly, and it was like looking at a sentence and understanding the words, all of it coming to me at once. So after Leonie left, I sat in the backyard for a while and listened to the pigs and the horses and old Stag’s singing sinking to silence like a whipping and dropping wind. I moved from pen to pen, watching the sun and estimating how long Leonie’d been gone, how long Mam and Pop were gone, how soon I could expect them to come back so I could go inside the house. I was walking with my head tilted up, listening for the growl of tires, so I didn’t see the jagged lid of the can rising from the earth, didn’t see it when I put my foot on it, stepped down in the instinct of walking. It sank deep. I screamed and dropped, holding my leg, and I knew the animals understood me then, too: Let me go, great tooth! Spare me!

Instead, it burned and bled, and I sat on the ground in the horse’s clearing and

Sie haben das Ende dieser Vorschau erreicht. Registrieren Sie sich, um mehr zu lesen!
Seite 1 von 1

Rezensionen

Was die anderen über Sing, Unburied, Sing denken

4.2
175 Bewertungen / 96 Rezensionen
Wie hat es Ihnen gefallen?
Bewertung: 0 von 5 Sternen

Kritische Rezensionen

  • Ward won her second National Book Award for "Sing, Unburied, Sing" in 2017. She draws on Toni Morrison, William Faulkner, and Greek myths to play with the classic American road novel, weaving magical realism into the modern, rural South. Her sentences rise together to form a penetrating story that lingers like fog on the Mississippi bayou where the novel is set.

    Scribd Editors
  • Young Jojo's grandpa, Pop, is a quietly powerful father figure in Jesymn Ward's National Book Award-winning coming-of-age story. His mother is too consumed with longing for his real father, who's imprisoned in the notorious state penitentiary, to pay much attention to Jojo and his little sister. Pop's paternal love and guidance shines all the more for his understated, dignified ways of teaching Jojo how to be a man as the family struggles to stay together in a world that's tearing them apart.

    Scribd Editors

Leser-Rezensionen

  • (4/5)
    Haunting. Jesmyn Ward has been described as the heir to Toni Morrison, and she absolutely deserves that title. She relentlessly depicts the effects of poverty, racism, and drugs in the deep South. But while Salvage the Bones shows the strength of family ties, Sing, Unburied, Sing heartbreakingly shows their limitations. This is a devastating story that I will be thinking about for a long time.
  • (4/5)
    Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward is set in modern day Mississippi but this tale of a black rural family has a timeless feel. Told from shifting viewpoints, we learn that Jojo and his little sister, Kayla are being reared by their grandparents. Their mother, Leona, is a careless and neglectful mother. The children’s white father, Michael is in Parchman prison, but he’s due to get out and that is all Leona cares about. She is determined to drive upstate and pick him up and she’s taking his children with her.This is a road trip from hell, with the baby getting sick, Leona and her friend scoring and using some meth and Jojo trying to hold all the pieces together. After Michael is picked up, the trip gets even worse, Michael and Leona can’t seem to see beyond their own needs, and the children are suffering. They arrive home to find that their grandmother, who has cancer, is getting very near the end of her life.The past and the dead are not lying quiet in this book as the author uses darkness and loss to give this novel an edge. Although parts of the book didn’t totally work for me, this brooding and painful story that deals with issues of poverty, drug abuse, and racial disharmony flowed lyrically amongst the angst, sorrow and compassion.
  • (5/5)
    Sing, Unburied, Sing by author Jesmyn Ward tells the story of the struggles of an African American family in modern day rural Mississippi. Thirteen-year-old Jojo and his sister, Kayla, are being raised by their grandparents. Their grandmother is in the last stages of cancer and their grandfather (Pop) is coping with the farm while caring for her and the kids. Their mother, Leonie, addicted to methamphetamines, drops in and out of their lives. Their white father is about to be released from prison and Leonie decides to take the two children along to meet him resulting in a road trip marked by the presence of another addict, Kayla's car sickness, unexpected and unwanted side trips, and Jojo's constant alertness to any dangers as well as protection of his toddler sister from their mother's seeming indifference to their needs. It is no surprise that Sing, Unburied Sing won the National Book Award for Fiction and was named as one of the top books of 2017. It is a beautifully written novel with lyrical prose and complex and interesting characters. The narration is split between Jojo and Leonie and later in the book, Richie, a ghost from Pop's past. Jojo is certainly the most likeable of these characters but Leonie is, by far, the most complex - on the surface, she is selfish and needy and indifferent to anyone but Michael, her white lover, and often showing almost hatred towards Jojo who, in turn, dislikes and distrusts her. But in her internal dialogue, we see a more nuanced character, one who has never gotten over the death of her brother; who knows that her actions and reactions to her son are wrong; who is willing to take an action that will aid her mother, knowing how it will likely look to the rest of the family; and who is aware of her obsession for Michael and wishes she were able to give just a little of that love to her children but knows that she can't. This is also a tale about how memory and the past colours the presence, that the dead are never fully gone from our lives but are rather there 'pulling the weight of history behind them'. These ghosts of the past are there in Pop's stories about his time in the notorious Parchman prison and what happened to Richie, something that remains a mystery until the very end of the story; in Leonie's inability to let go of what happened to her brother; in the actual ghosts that Jojo, Kayla, and Leonie can see; and in the road trip which makes it clear that the injustices and inequalities of the past has never gone away even if we want to believe they have.
  • (3/5)
    This is an ugly book. It starts out with the graphic description of the killing, skinning and disembowling of a goat and goes on to describe a meth addicted mother who enjoys being cruel to her son. I loved Salvage the Bones which was also very realistic, but I just didn’t want to have anything to do with these people. The son JoJo is a wonderful character, but I fear for him and his sister Kayla as they live in this murdurously racist and familial hostile world. The grandfather, Pop, is a man we would all want to be related to, but how much longer can this hard scrabble man go on. What is going to happen to the children. The ghosts didn’t add a thing to the story as far as I was concerned except to show that when life is not worth living, you have to turn to fantasy. Ward is a great author and will probably win many awards, but I don’t want to read about another bad mother like this one. She shows her good side, she shows that she could have been a thoughtful and emotionally supportive person, so she also shows the damage racism and drug abuse can do. I just don’t want to read about it anymore.
  • (5/5)
    This haunting novel is told through the eyes of a thirteen-year-old African-American child, Jojo and his mother Leonie. Jojo is a lot like his grandfather, Pop, who has basically raised him with his grandmother, Mam, who has been sick for a while now with cancer and is dying. Pop tells him the story in bits and pieces without the ending of his incarceration at the infamous Parchman Farm prison where prisoners work the land mercilessly and are whipped for any small infraction. Where there are prisoners who are set up as watchmen to overlook their work and make sure they don't try to escape and prisoners who train the hounds in case someone does try to escape they can be tracked down. While there he meets a thirteen-year-old kid named Ritchie who is too young to be able to handle the place and he tries his best to help him survive it.Jojo, himself is just trying to survive a life where his mother pops in and out of it at random intervals, is sometimes out of it when she is there, and is sometimes violent with him, and his father, Michael, a white man, is in jail. He has taken to calling his mother Leonie because she has stopped being a mother to him. Jojo takes care of and protects his little sister Kayla who is a toddler and who adores him.Leonie is addicted to drugs and to Michael. Her children come in a distant third. She calls Kayla Michaela. Mam preferred Kayla and started calling her that and it stuck and Leonie wasn't around so Kayla answers to that. When she is high she can see the disapproving ghost of her dead brother Given who was murdered when he was in high school by a rich white boy. Mystical abilities and the ability to use herbs run in the family, but Leonie has forgotten more than she remembers of what her mother taught her about the herbs. Her mother had the ability to see what was going on with a person and sometimes see what would happen in the near future.Michael is getting out of jail and Leonie wants their children to be there when he does so they go on the two-day pilgrimage to get there along with her friend from work Misty whose man is still in Parchman. They stop and stay the night at Michael's lawyer's house where they drop off some drugs they picked up along the way at a nasty woman's house for money. After they had left the woman's house, Kayla throws up in the car and they can't get her to hold anything down. Jojo is worried to death and Leonie is a bit worried herself, but eventually hears the siren call of the drugs and gets talked into leaving her kids even though Kayla now has a fever. She did make a questionable tea of blackberry vines and leaves from the side of the road because she remembered that one of them could be used to help settle the stomach for adults and if you use a little bit for kids and gave it to Kayla. Jojo, however, not trusting it, made Kayla throw it up.This book shows a family that has strange abilities beyond this world, but also one that is African American and what they go through in the Mississippi Delta over the years and how things really haven't changed much, especially for a young black man struggling with his place in this world. It is also a book about death and dying as there are some dead people in this book and Mam is on her deathbed and heading toward the next world. This book is filled with strong characters including Jojo who is as strong and unyielding as the trees that grow in the forest in his backyard. He can take anything that Leonie or Michael dish at him so long as they leave Kayla alone. He gets his backbone and protectiveness from Pop. Leonie is as weak as Jojo is strong. She is also very selfish and thinks of her own needs and desires first. Mam tells JoJo that that was just how she was made. Leonie takes nothing from her mother except her mystical gift. This is a powerful book that really packs a punch, not the gut, but to the soul. It will get under your skin and effect you in mysterious ways that will stay with you long after you finish it. I give this book five out of five stars. QuotesThis is the kind of world, Mama told me when I got my first period when I was twelve, that makes fools of the living and saints of them once they dead. And devils them throughout.-Jesmyn Ward (Sing, Unburied, Sing p 105)
  • (3/5)
    beautiful writing, and I loved the alternating perspectives. I wasn't engaged in the overall story though.
  • (3/5)
    tbh if 90% of the ghost plotline was cut this would have been a lot better. they didn't need to be there!
  • (4/5)
    Lincoln in the Bardo meets Moonlight; a compelling portrait of a troubled family. The book is at its best when we are seeing through the eyes of Jojo - a child who is by turns fierce, scared, wise and adrift - but almost every other character offers something other than we first expect. Highly recommended.
  • (5/5)
    Jesmyn Ward’s 2017 book, Sing, Unburied, Sing (Scribner) is an engrossing novel of a Mississippi family struggling with issues of race, unemployment and threatened family breakup. It is a difficult book to put down.Set on the Gulf Coast and in the Mississippi Delta, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a story of thirteen-year-old Jojo, his grandfather Pop, grandmother Mam, mother Leonie and toddler sister Kayla. Jojo has a close relationship with Pop, whose years of experience have made him wise and patient. Pop teaches Jojo how to cope with the difficult things in life, and Jojo wants to show Pop that he can take life as an adult.Mam lies in her room, in the last days of her battle with cancer. Key to the story, Jojo and Leonie are able to see and speak to spirits of the dead who have not yet left this world. They inherited this ability, or burden, through Mam, who is able to use natural forces, herbals and words to help people.On the surface, this is a story of the release of Leonie’s husband (Michael, Jojo and Kayla’s father) from Parchman Farm, Mississippi’s notorious high-security and historically black prison, after serving time on drug charges. Leonie is black and Michael is white. Michael’s father is a man who cannot see past race and he hates Leonie because of it; it is another family torn apart.Leonie demands Jojo and Kayla join her on the trip to Parchman to pick up Michael, over Pop’s objections. It turns out Pop is right. Leonie is a neglectful mother, to the point of child endangerment. Leonie’s self-absorption and Michael’s absence force Jojo to be the parent to his little sister Kayla. The role of parent matures Jojo, but his maturity is also driven by the need of the dead to use his voice.The spirits with whom Jojo and Leonie communicate are those of people who have suffered a deep wrong or have left something unresolved in life, and must stay in this world until these issues are answered. Leonie’s brother, Given, is one of those spirits, but Leonie can only see Given while she is using drugs.Killed by Michael’s cousin, and the racially-charged murder thinly covered up as a hunting accident, Given cannot move on to the next world because he has been silenced, and his story remains untold and unresolved. The lack of a voice is both figurative and literal; spirit Given cannot speak aloud.Another ghost appears to Jojo later in the book, when the group arrives at Parchman Farm. This is the spirit of a twelve-year-old African American boy, Richie, who was imprisoned at Parchman for a minor offense, at the same time Pop was serving a sentence there. Richie is young and naïve; he does not understand the forces at play in the prison, and Pop tries to protect him. But Richie is killed while serving his time.On the ride back to the Gulf Coast after Parchman, Richie’s spirit haunts, gnaws at, weighs on Jojo, and constantly seeks something from the living boy. He demands Jojo ask: Why did your grandfather not protect me in prison? What happened to me? The spirits cannot speak, so they require that the living ask the questions.And that’s the title of the book. Ward has her characters speak for the silenced and forgotten. In an interview on National Public Radio in August 2017, Ward referred to those killed at Parchman and elsewhere: “I thought about all those people whose suffering had been erased, and thought, ‘Why can’t they speak? Why can’t I undo some of that erasure?’” In Sing, Unburied, Sing, the living must provide a voice for the dead to ask the questions that most of the living do not want to answer. In the title, Unburied means that these questions are still unsettled and will not allow these spirits to rest.Ward uses a multiple narrative technique: the perspective of each chapter is rotated among the different characters. This is a difficult technique, but Ward makes it work well. A very different Mississippi writer, William Faulkner, used this technique in his classic novel, As I Lay Dying. In that book, the Bundren family treks across the state to bury the mother of the family. Faulkner also has each of his characters takes a turn narrating a chapter, including the spirit of the deceased mother. But in Sing, Unburied, Sing, the multiple narrative effectively makes the family a living being itself, with a voice and a desire to survive.Other recurring themes in Sing, Unburied, Sing include blood and water. Pop’s given name is River and Mam is called the saltwater woman. On the drive to Parchman Farm, Leonie buys drinks for herself and her girlfriend, but leaves the children thirsty. “Sometimes I wonder who that parched man was, that man dying for water, that they named the town and jail after,” Jojo says.In this book, water is a symbol for life, love and nurturing. Leonie is not a nurturing mother; instead, she is neglectful and her children go thirsty. But Pop and Mam have always looked out for their grandchildren.Blood is sometimes used to represent both family and maturity. As the book opens, Jojo narrates a scene in which he helps Pop slaughter a goat. "I follow Pop out the house, try to keep my back straight, my shoulders even as a hanger; that’s how Pop walks. I try to look like this is normal and boring so Pop will think I’ve earned these thirteen years, so Pop will know I’m ready to pull what needs to be pulled, separate innards from muscle, organs from cavities. I want Pop to know I can get bloody. Today’s my birthday."Jesmyn Ward knows well the part of the country in which the events of Sing, Unburied, Sing occur; she was born in DeLisle, Mississippi, not far from the Gulf Coast, and resides there now. She is an associate professor of creative writing at Tulane University. Other books from her include novels Salvage the Bones (2012, Bloomsbury) and Where the Line Bleeds (2018, Scribner), and essay collection The Fire This Time (2016, Scribner). She is a two-time National Book Award winner.Sing, Unburied, Sing is an important and thought-provoking book that deserves reading.
  • (4/5)
    Love her voice and use of dialect. I look forward to reading more of her books.
  • (4/5)
    Sing, Unburied, Sing
    By Jesmyn Ward
    2017
    Scribners

    The book opens when a young girl and her father choose a young goat, lead it to a barn where they kill it, skin it, slaughter it and eat it. Although, thankfully, it is the only animal killing in th book, the feeling prevails throughout. This is a very hard edged book and very blunt...Wards use of words, and tone are poetic and add so much to this look at the deep Black South of Mississippi.
    Issues of mixed relationships, drug abuse, violence, struggle are essential for us to understand and important themes in this wonderfully deep novel. It is so important for us to relate to others and respect them as people, so we can bring heart and humanity back to this country... This book is not for the weak....
    I felt a real compassion and connection to JoJo, one of the main characters. A child born to a black mother, Leonie who was a meth user and a white father, Michael who spent a lot of time incarcerated, he was not acknowledged or accepted by his Grandfather....Jojo must learn from the violence and despair that surround him and learn the lessons of life, respect and survival mostly on his own....
    This is not an easy book to read, but it is essential, esp in this climate of hostility and hatred so many are feeding into and becoming a part of.
    An excellent book and recommended highly esp to those interested in the class and race struggle, and the human fight for acceptance, dignity, respect and change.
  • (5/5)
    The story of a family in contemporary USA. A well crafted novel with so many layers it may take more than one read to fully appreciate. It's less of a good read and more a commentary on American society - past and present. At times I was fully expecting a sensational, single disaster to unfold (e.g. death of the toddler), instead Ward focusses our attention on the wider impact of more subtle, wider, profound socety disasters - drug abuse, embedded racism, injustice. The result is a book that keeps you anxious about all the characters and their destiny. Not a book to read if you are already feeling low with very few uplifting moments. However, you will be rewarded if you do read it, and will have a better understanding of the issues Ward raises if you are, like me, unfamiliar with American contemporary family life and the history it has emerged from.
  • (5/5)
    I feel like I'm going to fail to try to write this review because I don't have the words to describe how this book made me feel. It made me feel A LOT. But I'm going to try anyways.

    This is an an incredible novel for a lot of reasons. For one thing, the writing is absolutely brilliant. The author has a way of keeping the words simple but making them convey so much meaning. I loved that the author gave very realistic portrayals of everything in the book; not a single thing was downplayed or glorified. From the description of a long car ride to the intensity of a drug high, every minute was real. It allowed me to slip into the story and live it along with the characters.

    With this story, we are given 2 perspectives. One is Jojo, a 13-year-old who watches everything and feels the need to protect his younger sister - especially from their mother. We also see through the eyes of Leonie, Jojo's mother, who wants to do the right thing and struggles with being the good daughter and mother that she wants to be. Through their points of view, the author brings in the issues of race, family, and addiction. Now, these are all very difficult topics to raise; not only does the author not shy away from them, she also doesn't pass any judgement. That's what I loved about this narrative - there was nothing one-sided to it. Every issue is explored so deeply and through so many interactions that it soon becomes evident that there is no clear-cut way of looking at things. It is easy to dismiss things and label them to make life easier, but the author refuses to allow the reader to do that. 

    I also really loved how the author incorporated magical realism into this literary fiction novel. I've always been a big fan of magical realism, and when it's done right, it can be the most wonderful thing in the world. It was done right here. Both Leonie and Jojo find themselves haunted by the ghosts of young boys; for Leonie, it is her brother who passed away as a teenager; for Jojo, it is a boy who died as an inmate and carries the ugly history of racism and slavery within him. Reading about these interactions made my heart pound, and I could feel my emotions running parallel to that of Leonie and Jojo. It was very well executed.

    If you can't tell already, this is a 5/5 star novel for me. The writing was gritty and engaging, the characters were vivid and emotionally-charged, and the story was haunting. If you haven't read this novel, you should definitely change that right away!
  • (5/5)
    It's a difficult read set in southern Mississippi where the Jim Crow past is still very much alive and there's little to no hope of the characters being able to improve their lives. The writing is amazing and there are some good relationships, especially between the grandparents who are watching over the children. However for those who complain that the books I recommend are depressing I will say it has a lot of child neglect/abuse, drug addiction and racial violence but deserves all the awards and accolades it has received.
  • (3/5)
    I may have read this one at the wrong time. A ton of misery in a book at the tail end of a NY winter probably isn't a great idea. All of the characters here rip your heart out with empathy, even the terrible mother, especially Jojo. But so much miserableness happens to them all. And I'm not sure to what end for the book, other than that is life, for the marginalized. There are some shining beautiful moments. (The spiral of trees the mother plants every year for her son being one of my favorites.) It also took me forever to read this book, which is not the way to read any book. Some would compare Ward's writing to Toni Morrison but I wouldn't. I think Toni Morrison's sentences themselves are much more complex and unique, from what I can remember. It's been a while. I'm sure there are many champions for this book, but I didn't have extreme amounts of love for it. If I had read this book in summer, maybe that would be different.
  • (5/5)
    This is such a bleak book at the beginning. Jojo is our main character and even though he is just 12, he is the main caretaker for his 2 year-old sister. He and his sister are essentially being raised by his maternal grandparents, but grandma is dying. HIs mom isn't around much and when she is around she is far from maternal. She does arrive one day when she wants to take her kids to pick up their dad from Parchman Prison, several hours away, where he is serving time for selling drugs. The trip there is nightmarish. There is no food, it's hot, the baby sister gets sick. Drugs are purchased along the way there and back. There is a close call with a police officer who pulls them over. They arrive home in time for the grandmother to die. Woven throughout the story is the remembrance of the grandfather who unjustly served time at Parchman himself as a young man. He met Richie while he was there, who was even younger than he was. He protected Richie as he was able, but when Richie escaped with another prisoner, it was Pop himself who tracked and killed Richie himself to prevent his being brutalized and lynched by the mob searching for the escaped prisoners. Richie's spirit visits Jojo and accompanies him to see Pop again as he attempts to find his afterlife.
  • (4/5)
    There are many books/authors whom I admire fully but whose work I do not really enjoy reading. One of the first among equals in this list is Toni Morrison. This book, and Ward's previous works, are often compared to to Morrison's books, and I think the reason I don't enjoy reading Morrison is the reason I did not really enjoy reading this book. Ward's language is beautiful and poetic, and also has qualities of soaring oratory--language that moves me in a church or meeting hall, but in print form and when applied to very personal human stories it sets me at a distance from the story's subject. That remove works against so much of what is great in this book.I loved the relationships in this book. Jojo and Kayla, Mam and Pop all very complicated people capable of the most beautiful and uncomplicated love imaginable. But as much as I wanted to get inside these relationships they were closed off to anyone but the two principals -- closed off in part by that distancing language -- that I can't settle in and fully understand these dyads. This is true too in Leonie's relationship with Micheal and with her parents, children, and her dead brother. These relationships lack the intimacy and beauty of the other relationships because Leonie is broken, and inconsistent, and probably not a very good person (even before losing her brother and becoming addicted) but I still felt the book's language stopped me from understanding them.There is so much to love in this book. First, the aforementioned relationships, and these beautifully drawn characters (Black and poor White) borne down on by an ugly world rigged against them, set up not to stop them from failing, but rather to make sure they can never succeed. The paradox of Leonie, who jumps through hoops to try to create this illusion of of a family while being the person who destroys the family and everyone in it with every selfish mean action and word. She is such a terrible person, and I felt a dearth of empathy that I might have found if I could have gotten a little closer to her. Every time she longed for Jojo to be a baby I hated her for her weakness because she really just wanted him to be more convenient for her, more easy to control. Every time she did something in the name of family I could see that the real intent was to score drugs. I got the feeling there was good in her, but the book held me away from finding that good.This was a 3.5 for me. My admiration up near a 5, my reading pleasure was about a 2. Beautifully written, important, but for me it felt like the book itself kept me from understanding the characters.
  • (5/5)
    This was my first foray into the literary world of Jesmyn Ward. Her first novel, Salvage the Bones, won the National Book Award. So I had high expectations for Sing, Unburied, Sing, her second novel. I was not disappointed. In this novel she demonstrates her skills as a unique American writer by bringing the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America. Drawing on Welty, Morrison, and Faulkner---The Odyssey and the Old Testament, she provides 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 succeeds in this by sharing the story of the members of an extended family that includes thirteen-year-old Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, who live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop. Added to these family members is 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. Ward's poetically lyrical writing style is present throughout the novel with the story told primarily from the point of view of Jojo and his mother Leonie. Meanwhile, the ghost of a youth who had been killed while escaping the Parchman Farm, who joins them on their visit there, and who can only be seen and heard by young Jojo, adds to the bleak story a poignancy that is almost breathtaking.Sing, Unburied, Sing grapples with some of 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 wonderful new contribution to the literature of the American South. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel by a relatively new author at the height of her powers.
  • (2/5)
    After the sheer brilliance of Salvage the Bones, this work is unfortunately a big disappointment
  • (5/5)
    Sing, Unburied, Sing tells the story of Jojo and his family. We meet him when he's thirteen years old. He's mixed race, with a black mother and a white father. He's been raised by his black grandparents. His mum, Leonie, has addiction issues. His dad, Michael, left when Jojo was nine, and ended up in prison. His grandmother is sick. He idolises his grandpa. He is surrogate parent to his baby sister.The novel is part family saga, part road trip, part ghost story. It reveals the effects of centuries of slavery and the grinding poverty that emancipation left black Americans living in. It's a book that is full of life. A book that will enrich the life of anyone who reads it. This book is vital.
  • (4/5)
    Jojo is a thirteen year old boy living in Mississippi who has few role models. His mother, Leonie, struggles with drug addiction and is rarely around. His father, Michael, has been incarcerated for the last three years and has a temper. Jojo and his three year old sister Kayla have been raised mainly by Pop and Mam, his maternal grandparents who are black. His paternal grandparents who are white want nothing to do with Leonie, Jojo or Kayla. Pop and Mam are good people. Mam is superstitious and relies on herbs and home remedies for cures.
  • (5/5)
    Brilliant book. Wonderful to listen to this book. Very sad.
  • (4/5)
    I am trying to read a certain number of long listed Women's Literature Long List Prize books, which is the main reason I read this book. I found this to be an unrelentingly dark book and one that I might not have gotten through had I not been determined to so . It is very graphic and at the start of story, young JoJo is with his kindly Pop ( maternal grandfather) , who is killing and skinning a goat with graphic detail. "Pop slices down the center of his stomach, and the innards slide out and into the tub. He's slicing and the smell overwhelms like a faceful of pig shit."Young Jojo is just 12 or 13, and lives with his maternal grandfather and grandmother. His mother, Leonie, is also present, but she is addicted to drugs and is extremely inconsistent in her ability to parent. Leonie is really unable to see past her own needs and is a mother in name only. The father of young Jojo and three year old Kayla is a white man who is being released from Parchman Prison . Leonie insists on going to pick up her boyfriend and the father of her children and drags her two children along in a car trip. There are plenty of drugs, vomiting and cooking of drugs. Add to that a bit of magical realism in the form of two dead young men, Leonie's dead brother, Given and Richie, a dead boy related to Pop's past as a prison inmate.It's a powerful story and I suppose one that needs to be told. The cruelty, racial prejudice, past and present, are there, as is grinding poverty and drug use is on full display.It's a difficult book in many ways, but I'm glad I read it. I see this making it to the Women's Prize Short List.4 stars Guardedly recommended.
  • (4/5)
    Heart wrenching to see kids growing up in a poor area surrounded by parents who are on drugs and making bad decisions. I loved the relationship between Jojojaquesmcpherson and his grandfather, also how Jojo took care of his little sister. The "gifts" the grandma, mom, and kids have are interesting, somewhat believable, but got to be too much at the end. I loved and followed the story but was a bit disappointed at the end when it followed Richie more than Jojo. Overall an enjoyable book.
  • (5/5)
    The story of Jo Jo and his family, as they deal with racism, terminal illness and imprisonment."He tell you how he knew me? That we was in Parchman together?" I huff and nod again."They don't send them there as young as you no more." My wrists won't stop hurting. "Sometimes I think it done changed. And then I sleep and wake up, and it ain't changed none."It's like the cuffs cut all the way down to the bone. "It's like the snake that sheds its skin. The outside looks different when the scales change, but the inside is always the same."Like my marrow could carry a bruise.There's a lot here, from the legacies of jim crow violence, the awful choices people had to make and then live with, to police brutality and "modern jim crow". The book made some interesting choices, telling Leonie's POV, after quite a lengthy account from Jo-Jo, by which point I had no sympathy for her at all. Her voice changes that, made me rethink some of my assumptions.
  • (5/5)
    A sad tale narrated by a 13 year old boy whose mother is addicted, and who must care for his baby sister. Filled with grandfathers, ghosts, and more. At times the writing soars, becomes ecstatic, transcendent--in the style of Toni Morrison. Excellent read.
  • (3/5)
    I really REALLY wanted to give this a better review! The writing is excellent, there has been so much buzz about it, it won the National Book Award, there are many reasons why I should have liked it, but I can't lie. I wasn't feeling it. The book follows three characters: Jojo, a thirteen year old boy who is mature beyond his years and just wants to be like his grandfather and make sure his younger sister gets taken care, his mother Leonie, a never present parent who spends more time pining after her incarcerated boyfriend and doing drugs, and finally there is Richie, another thirteen year old boy with an unsettling past. Leonie takes her two children on a road trip to see their father released from prison and while there, Jojo encounters Richie, a boy whose story HE KNOWS. Jojo is by far the greatest character in this sad family saga, he is strong, wise, questioning, and more of a parent to his younger sister than his mother, Leonie could ever hope to be. I briefly sympathized with his mom, but it's hard when she constantly chooses herself and her boyfriend over her own children. She is the literal worst. I'm with Jojo, she could die and the world would be a better place. Same goes for his deadbeat dad. The story only spans a few days, but it feels like a lifetime. And, Richie... Richie helps add another layer to the story, it helps deepens the saga. Even though he's not quite a family member, he has something to add. The story was artfully done, but it didn't resonate with me.
  • (5/5)
    It is hard to find the words to do this novel justice. So many elements come into play, but it breaks down to really, really good writing, and characters that become unforgettable. Don't let the magical realism scare you off - that is not my wheelhouse, but in this novel it feels seamless. A heartbreaking novel by a new American master.
  • (4/5)
    Could have been set anytime in the past 300 years. Brings to mind a mix of [Lincoln at the Bardo] and [The Underground Railroad]. The shadows of the past are always following us, all we need to do is slow down and listen. Finished on trip to Mobile for special election canvassing.
  • (5/5)
    TOB Book. This was excellent. A family and their ghosts. The plot line was good and the character development was great. So well crafted that the story and the characters seem simplistic but they aren't.