Sing, Unburied, Sing is a beautifully written, character driven, heartfelt novel that takes place in the steamy Mississippi Gulf Coast. The story is about a young black girl, Leonie who has two children, Jojo who is thirteen and Kayla, who is a toddler. The children’s father, Michael, is white and in prison. Michael’s family is hopelessly racist and rejects Leonie and the children, so they live with Leonie’s parents.
Throughout the novel, we learn about Pop’s time spent in the penitentiary, and the horrific details that pepper his past. We see how his daughter, Leonie, is selfish, neglectful, bitter and struggles with addiction. We witness Jojo being able to communicate with the dead. These rich characters evoke so much emotion, hope and despair, and I enjoyed my increased understanding of them as they became whole through Ward’s prose.
Jesmyn Ward shows us that the course of our life is not just based on our current existence, relationships, choices and our future potential but also includes our past and how its impact weighs on us. In addition to these living characters in Sing, Unburied, Sing, there is the ghost of Leonie’s dead brother, Given, who she sees when she is on drugs, and Richie, the young boy Pop failed to save when he was in jail as a younger man, who Jojo sees and helps as he searches for answers about his own death.
I really did love this story of love, protection, race and family in the face of poverty down south. The lines between past and present, death and the living, and hate and love are great references and the characters often hover between them. Jesmyn Ward does an artful job putting a spotlight on the injustices life may bring and I highly recommend this book!
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