Book Review- Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

“But she ain’t got the mothering instinct. I knew when you was little and we was out shopping, and she bought herself something to eat and ate it right in front of you, and you was sitting there crying hungry. I knew then.” -Mam

Here it is; my review for Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing. I read this book with another book club that I am in called, Book Girl Magic. This is my first reading with them and I’ll be joining them for May as well.

This book left my soul so weary. Beautifully written but oh so sad and daunting. I don’t know how many times I wanted to reach through this book and snatch Leonie up. Leonie, Jojo’s mother,  is a piece of work. I have had movies make me angry at a character but this book invoked so much sadness and anger from me for Jojo. Jojo, the antagonist; is a sweet mild-mannered young man who has had to live a life before his time. His little sister Kayla is his lifeline and he hers. Thank goodness for Pop, their grandfather, because no one else seemed to care much about Jojo and Kayla.

Jojo’s mother was a drug addicted loser and much of the book was a journey to go get his father Michael (loser as well) after he was released from prison. Her friend Misty went along for the ride and was just as disgusting. I didn’t understand why Leonie even took them with her being that it was more of a burden for them then it was on her. During the road trip Kayla got sick and the whole trip seems to consist of vomit, humidity and a ghost that tagged along after they left the prison; Parchman. The one thing I kept thinking was; when are they going to take a shower? Then this ghost was one of two that had a pretty big spotlight in the book. I don’t want to give too much away as I want to avoid spoilers.

The ironic thing was that Jojo and Kayla were bi-racial and their grandfather on their father’s side was a racist who didn’t want anything to do with them or their mother. Everything about that whole aspect of the story just left me so sad and confused and  I could not even imagine this life for a child. I felt so sad for these children and so disgusted with how Jojo was treated by his mother. Although this book was well written it was also very depressing. This was my first time reading a book by Jesmyn Ward and it makes me a little apprehensive about reading more of her books.

This book took a turn for the worse once the ghosts came into the storyline. This left me a little confused and not sure what the purpose was for them. I wondered if I missed something but I have heard other people say the same thing.

Overall, I want to give this book a 4 star rating. This is mainly because it was well written and the story does grab you. I do recommend this book but I want you to know that it is very heavy!

Check the synopsis below and get this book on Amazon

In Jesmyn Ward’s first novel since her National Book Award–winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America. An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing journeys through Mississippi’s past and present, examining the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power—and limitations—of family bonds.

Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn’t lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent White father, Michael, who is being released from prison; his absent White grandfather, Big Joseph, who won’t acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given, who died as a teenager.

His mother, Leonie, is an inconsistent presence in his and his toddler sister’s lives. She is an imperfect mother in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is Black and her children’s father is White. She wants to be a better mother but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. Simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high, Leonie is embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances.

When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another thirteen-year-old boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.

Source- Amazon

2 thoughts on “Book Review- Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

  1. This was my first read by Jesmyn Ward as well, but please keep reading! Salvage the Bones was amazing. I really appreciated this book too, though, despite the heaviness you discuss. I appreciate that Ward told the story and point of view of Leonie as well, instead of simply demonizing her as a bad mom. Her writing is definitely top notch.

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