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Silver Sparrow Hardcover – Bargain Price, May 24, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
A coming-of-age story of sorts, Jones's melodramatic latest (after The Untelling) chronicles the not-quite-parallel lives of Dana Lynn Yarboro and Bunny Chaurisse Witherspoon in 1980s Atlanta. Both girls-born four months apart-are the daughters of James Witherspoon, a secret bigamist, but only Dana and her mother, Gwen, are aware of his double life. This, Dana surmises, confers "one peculiar advantage" to her and Gwen over James's other family, with whom he lives full time, though such knowledge is small comfort in the face of all their disadvantages. Perpetually feeling second best, 15-year-old Dana takes up with an older boy whose treatment of her only confirms her worst expectations about men. Meanwhile, Chaurisse enjoys the easy, uncomplicated comforts of family, and though James has done his utmost to ensure his daughters' paths never cross, the girls, of course, meet, and their friendship sets their worlds toward inevitable (and predictable) collision. Set on its forced trajectory, the novel piles revelation on revelation, growing increasingly histrionic and less believable. For all its concern with the mysteries of the human heart, the book has little to say about the vagaries of what motivates us to love and lie and betray. (May)
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“[An] expansive third novel…Jones effectively blends the sisters’ varied, flawed perspectives as the characters struggle with presumptions of family and the unwieldy binds of love and identity.”—Booklist
"A love story... full of perverse wisdom and proud joy....Jones's skill for wry understatement never
wavers."—O, The Oprah Magazine
(O Magazine )
“If your mom is a fan of emotionally charged morality tales (and whose mom isn’t?), she’s going to devour Tayari Jones’s third novel, Silver Sparrow, in a single sitting. Jones, a native Atlantan, once again mines her town for material and strikes serious pay dirt. Sparrow introduces us to sisters Dana Lynn Yarboro and Bunny Chaurisse Witherspoon, who were born four months apart from different mothers and have never met. One reason? Their father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist who has gone to great pains to ensure they remain in the dark about each other. And when they do meet, that’s when Sparrow gets really good.”—Essence
“A graceful and shining work about finding the truth.” – Library Journal, starred review
(Library Journal )
“A tense, layered and evocative tale...Jones explores the rivalry and connection of siblings, the meaning of beauty, the perils of young womanhood, the complexities of romantic relationships and the contemporary African-American experience.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune (Minneapolis Star Tribune )
“Impossible to put down until you find out how these sisters will discover their own versions of family.”—Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles Times )
“It’s an amazing, amazing read.”—Jennifer Weiner on NBC’s “The Today Show” (The Today Show )
“Silver Sparrow is rich, substantive, meaningful. It is also, at turns, funny and sharp, haunting and heartbreaking.”—The Root (The Root )
“Absorbing . . . Jones writes dialogue that is realistic and sparkling, with an intuitive sense of how much to reveal and when.”--Washington Post (Washington Post )
“Tayari Jones's immensely pleasurable new novel pulls off a minor miracle... Subtly exploring the power of labels... Jones crafts an affecting tale about things, big and small, we forfeit to forge a family. There are no winners in this empathetic and provocative story, only survivors.”—MORE (More )
“Charting a vast emotional unknown is Tayari Jones's compelling third novel, Silver Sparrow, in which a teenage girl's coming of age in 1990s Atlanta is shadowed by her dawning understanding of a corrosive secret – her father's second family.” – Vogue (Vogue )
“Nakedly honest...dazzlingly charged” —Atlanta Journal Constitution (Atlanta Journal Constitution )
“This is a heartbreaking story of two sisters, unknown to each other at first, who find and love each other for a short time in their lives.” – The Oklahoman (The Oklanhoman )
“This is a precisely written, meticulously controlled work. It’s also one that leaves room for the messiness of fragmented lives — an impressive command of the craft at hand, and its paradoxes.”—Vol. 1 Brooklyn (Vol. 1 Brooklyn )
“Beautifully written, Silver Sparrow will break your heart.”—Brooklyn Rail (Brooklyn Rail )
“[Jones] is fast defining middle-class black Atlanta the way Cheever did Westchester” – Village Voice (Village Voice )
Top customer reviews
SILVER SPARROW is the story of two young women, Dana and Chaurisse, who are the daughters of a bigamist father. Only Dana is aware that her father has another family and Dana's existence must be kept a secret from her father's other family. The first half of the book is told from Dana's perspective and the second half is told from Chaurisse's perspective as she slowly begins to realize that something isn't quite right with her family.
I thought that this book was a quick, easy read that would probably be great for a beach read. The writing is solid even if the style is somewhat simplistic (similar to a YA novel). I enjoyed most of the characters and I thought that the author did a good job of portraying all the characters involved in this very complicated situation in complex and compelling ways - she didn't make any of them out to be 100% villains. I also thought that the story and the setting had a realism about them that grounded the somewhat sensational subject matter. You could see this story really happening in this town. I could picture the setting in my mind very clearly.
My problem with this book was that I thought this same story with these same characters could have been told in a much more compelling fashion. To begin with, the narrator characters (the two girls) insist on interrupting the telling of the story at hand in order to tell stories about their parents' lives which occurred before the beginning of the novel. I don't just mean an anecdote here or there - entire chapters are devoted to the parents' backstory. This irritated me - to me, this book was fundamentally about the two girls, not about their parents. The author certainly could have included some of the information in the flashback chapters through normal exposition, but there was just way too much attention devoted to the parents' backstories - it didn't add anything to novel as a whole and I always found myself wanting to skip over these chapters.
I also didn't like the fact that the first half of the novel is told from Dana's point-of-view and the second half through Chaurisse's point-of-view. I found Dana to be the more compelling of the two characters and I would have enjoyed it if the second, climactic half of the novel had been told through her point-of-view. I understand the need to have both of the girls' perspective in the novel. I just think that the novel would have worked much, much better if the entire thing had been told in alternating viewpoints (chapter to chapter) rather than the first half being about one girl and the second half being about the other girl. I think that the second half of the novel would have benefited greatly from seeing Dana's perspective.
Finally, I thought that the ending was sort of abrupt. The big reveal doesn't come until about the 90% mark and it is a rather cliché scene. I was looking forward to seeing how the big reveal actually effected both the girls and their families, but we get to see very little of this. I think it would have been better to have the big reveal happen much sooner (like at about 50-60% through the novel) and then have the book really deal with the aftermath of Chaurisse and her mother finding out about her father's other family. Even the epilogue-ish scene at the end is very abrupt and it doesn't give us much of a sense of how the girls' lives have changed in the intervening years between the end of the last chapter and the epilogue.
There were things that I liked about this novel, but I also feel like there is just so much wasted potential here. This book could have been really great with a few tweaks here and there, but as it stands, it's just average which is why I'm giving it three stars.
The first half of the book is narrated by secret daughter,Dana, while the second half of the story is told by Chaurisse, the acknowledged daughter. Thus, the reader sees both halves of this complicated family arrangement, and its impact on two girls as they grow up.
An exceptionally good read that kept me turning the pages.
The rationalizations for entering and staying in a bigamous relationship; the aiding and abetting by a trusted friend; the jealousy of the daughter who knows about the other one and the tension that knowledge builds; all add to Jones' narrative skill in telling a believable, emotion-driven story about people caught up in agreeing to live a damaging lie.
Does the amoral needs of a man who wants to keep his two families intact but detached from each other outweigh the responsibility of a loving woman who knows he is married but enters into a relationship with him and has a child? Together they build a life that becomes the "outside" family. His primary life is with the wife and daughter he makes his home with. This is the accepted contract.
Inevitably, the outside daughter pursues a clash course that rocks both homes he shares. The story is a page-turner at that point, earning it my 4-star rating for a very good read.