TITLE: Sing, Unburied, Sing
AUTHOR: Jesmyn Ward
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Published by: Scribner
Published on: September 5, 2017
Pages: 285 [hardcover]
CONGRATULATIONS TO JESMYN WARD AND SING, UNBURIED, SING FOR WINNING THE 2017 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD!
Set in the rural south, Jojo, a 10 year old boy, has been dealt an unfortunate hand at life. His mother, Leonie, is a drug addict and his father is incarcerated. He’s lucky enough to have grandparents who love him, but his grandmother (Mam) is dying from cancer. Jojo and his grandfather, Pop, do their best to hold the family together and take care of Kayla, Jojo’s toddler sister.
Leonie has visions of her dead brother when she’s high. These visions are a haunting ability passed down through generations. Throughout the unwinding American family story, it becomes apparent that Jojo has the ability as well.
As if being haunted by ghosts, having a drug-addict mother and a dying grandmother weren’t enough, Jojo’s father is being released from prison. Leonie packs her children into the car to pick up, Michael, the children’s father and a man she absolutely adores, from prison.
Sing, Unburied, Sing touches upon a vast number of ugly truths, both family and personal: death, poverty, addiction, incarceration, hunger, and abuse. The story touches upon what’s truly important in not only a life of poverty, but any life: family, nurture and protection. Pop and Jojo’s relationship is endearing and strong; they need one another equally.
The trip to prison adds an aspect of adventure to the story. Although I hated Leonie with my entire being, her story is raw and real. Her addiction overpowers her love for her children and while that seems extreme, it’s a harsh reality in the world we live in. Addiction is a disease.
I need to read this book again- there were many underlying themes and I feel that I didn’t absorb them all in the first reading. Jojo and Leonie’s ability to connect with the afterlife seemed like an odd addition to the story at first, but upon further reading I realize the depth it added to the characters and their backgrounds.
Conclusively, I didn’t connect with this book as much as I had anticipated I would. Although I empathized for the characters, Sing, Unburied, Sing didn’t engross me.
My Next Read:
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
by Mark Manson