Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel Hardcover – September 5, 2017
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
An Amazon Best Book of September 2017: A slamming, heartbreaker of a novel that is rendered with such stinging beauty and restrained emotion that despite the anguish taking place on the page, you won’t want it to end. For her third novel, National Book Award winning Jesmyn Ward, tells the story of Jojo, a young black Mississippi boy raised by his grandparents, who is forced to become a man far before he should because his mother is a drug addict, his father is in jail, and his baby sister needs a guardian. When Jojo’s dad is released from prison, Leonie packs Jojo and Kayla in the car, picks up her meth addled friend and drives north. What transpires is a nightmarish journey that weaves in and out of the present – Leonie’s meth induced highs, when she dreams of her dead brother who was killed by white hands decades ago, and the past -- when a man named Ritchie served time alongside Jojo’s grandfather. Sing, Unburied, Sing shimmers with mythic southern memories to tell a story of the drugged and the damned and the fluttering promise of youth. --Al Woodworth
"Ghosts, literal and literary, haunt nearly every page of Sing, Unburied, Sing — a novel whose boundaries between the living and the dead shift constantly, like smoke or sand. Set on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi (a place rich in oil rigs and atmosphere, if almost nothing else), the book’s Southern gothic aura recalls the dense, head-spinning prose of William Faulkner or Flannery O’Connor. But the voice is entirely Ward's own, a voluptuous magical realism that takes root in the darkest corners of human behavior ... Ward, whose Salvage the Bones won a National Book Award, has emerged as one of the most searing and singularly gifted writers working today. Grade: A."
"However eternal its concerns, Sing, Unburied, Sing, Ward’s new book, is perfectly poised for the moment. It combines aspects of the American road novel and the ghost story with a timely treatment of the long aftershocks of a hurricane and the opioid epidemic devouring rural America."
—The New York Times
"Staggering ... even more expansive and layered [than Salvage the Bones]. A furious brew with hints of Toni Morrison and Homer’s “The Odyssey,” Ward’s novel hits full stride when Leonie takes her children and a friend and hits the road to pick up her children’s father, Michael, from prison. On a real and metaphorical road of secrets and sorrows, the story shifts narrators — from Jojo to Leonie to Richie, a doomed boy from his grandfather’s fractured past — as they crash into both the ghosts that stalk them, as well as the disquieting ways these characters haunt themselves."
"Sing, Unburied, Sing is many things: a road novel, a slender epic of three generations and the ghosts that haunt them, and a portrait of what ordinary folk in dire circumstances cleave to as well as what they — and perhaps we all — are trying to outrun.”
—New York Times Book Review
"Sing, Unburied Sing is Ward’s third novel and her most ambitious yet. Her lyrical prose takes on, alternately, the tones of a road novel and a ghost story ... Sing, which is longlisted for a 2017 National Book Award, establishes Ward as one of the most poetic writers in the conversation about America’s unfinished business in the black South."
"While the magical element is new in Ward’s fiction, her allusiveness, anchored in her interest in the politics of race, has been pointing in this direction all along. It takes a touch of the spiritual to speak across chasms of age, class, and color ... The signal characteristic of Ward’s prose is its lyricism. “I’m a failed poet,” she has said. The length and music of Ward’s sentences owe much to her love of catalogues, extended similes, imagistic fragments, and emphasis by way of repetition ... The effect, intensified by use of the present tense, can be hypnotic. Some chapters sound like fairy tales. This, and her ease with vernacular language, puts Ward in fellowship with such forebears as Zora Neale Hurston and William Faulkner."
—The New Yorker
"[A] tour de force ... Ward is an attentive and precise writer who dazzles with natural and supernatural observations and lyrical details ... she continues telling stories we need to hear with rare clarity and power."
—O, the Oprah Magazine
"Electric ... a harrowing panorama of the rural South."
—L.A. Review of Books
"Gorgeous ... Always clear-eyed, Ward knows history is a nightmare. But she insists all the same that we might yet awaken and sing."
"The novel is built around an arduous car trip: A black woman and her two children drive to a prison to pick up their white father. Ward cleverly uses that itinerant structure to move this family across the land while keeping them pressed together, hot and irritated. As soon as they leave the relative safety of their backwoods farm, the snares and temptations of the outside world crowd in, threatening to derail their trip or cast them into some fresh ordeal .... The plight of this one family is now tied to intersecting crimes and failings that stretch over decades. Looking out to the yard, Jojo thinks, 'The branches are full. They are full with ghosts, two or three, all the way up to the top, to the feathered leaves.' Such is the tree of liberty in this haunted nation."
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Jojo and his little sister Kayla are children of Leonie, who is a drug abusing mother with zero mothering instincts. The three of them live with Mam and Pop, Leonie's parents and the children's grandparents. Jojo is like the surrogate father, as Leonie is often gone and the father, Michael is locked up in the notorious Parchman prison. Kayla reaches to Jojo for succor and nurture much to Leonie's dismay. Jesmyn is great at writing viscerally, and the reader will feel the simmering emotion of Jojo. Jesmyn subtly takes on poverty, racism and drug abuse. We get to experience the drug use along with Leonie. Leonie has hooked up with Michael since high school and he is the white father of her two kids. It was a sense of two broken souls recognizing each other that brought them together.
"Because I wanted Michael’s mouth on me, because from the first moment I saw him walking across the grass to where I sat in the shadow of the school sign, he saw me. Saw past skin the color of unmilked coffee, eyes black, lips the color of plums, and saw me. Saw the walking wound I was, and came to be my balm." Michael's parents never approved of the union and didn't meet their grandchildren until JoJo was a teenager and Kayla a toddler as they stopped by their house on the way back from picking up Michael after a three year stint in the prison.
Jesmyn brilliantly uses that actual road trip to take readers on a virtual trip thru the lives of Leonie, Pop and Man, and also Given. Given is the older brother of Leonie who lost his life to one of Michael's cousin's. Leonie often can see and hear Given, she finds these visions comforting especially when she is high. Jesmyn has layered the book on different levels, weaving past present and future in a haunting magnificence. Pop often regales young Jojo with stories about his life and his own stay at Parchman. Pop is struggling in dealing with Mam who is dying of cancer and Jesmyn 's writing around the decay and devastation of cancer and Mam's way of dealing and exiting this life is the phenomenal highlight of a book that has many. The novel moves back and forth in time, eventually coming full circle, and it is mostly through Pop and Jojo's interactions and conversations that this five star tale gets flushed out. Pop has some psychological scars from his time at Parchman and shares with Jojo bits at a time. This adds a bit of suspense to the novel, because readers will want the complete story of what happened. It seems he tells Jojo the same beginning and middle parts of his Parchman stay, but never the ending, well the ending of Pop's story coincides with the denouement of the novel and the book title will be clearly and fully brought to light. An excellent undertaking by Jesmyn Ward. I received an advanced reading copy from Netgalley in exchange for a review. The book will publish Sept. 5, 2017.
Sing, Unburied, Sing is the novel America needs right now. Reading it will go a long way toward gaining an understanding of the divide increasingly felt throughout the country. If fiction's greatest asset is to engender empathy, this novel has more than pulled its weight. A true 5 star read that will endure long after most of the year's other "big" titles have faded away. Rarely have I picked up a new novel and known that I'm reading something historically good. This is a work that will be studied decades from now, and readers should glory in the opportunity to read and feel it at its original release.
Though I can see why the critics love Sing, Unburied, Sing, I didn’t particularly enjoy reading it and had trouble connecting with the story.
Set in Mississippi, the story of JoJo and Kayla, two mixed race children who grow up in their black grandparents’ house (with the sporadic presence of their drug addict mother, Leonie), and the road trip to pick up their white father (Michael) from prison.
Why I Read It:
Though I didn’t finish Ward’s previous National Book Award winner, Salvage the Bones, I wanted to give her latest a try since it, too, was a Finalist for the National Book Award.
Childhood Trauma, Abuse, Drugs, Race, Poverty, Family
What I Liked:
- The writing is unquestionably the star of this book. Its first line and chapter (and really the whole book) are raw and vivid and I was highlighting like crazy throughout. It’s the kind of writing that’s sparse, hard-hitting, and can really gut you at times, which usually works well for me.
- JoJo and Kayla are heart-breaking characters and I wanted to wrap them up and take them home with me. They go through an incredible amount of trauma caused by the adults.
- And, Pop (Jojo and Kayla’s grandfather) does his best trying to parent them in their parents’ absence. He’s the wise character trying to shape JoJo into a good man and I adored him.
- The story has a mystical quality similar to Sara Taylor’s The Shore (my review). Ward’s writing about the land, the weather, the animals and their connection to the human spirit sets the atmosphere and there is also a bit of herbal medicine going on. I liked all these elements, but the mysticism went a bit too far for me in other ways (see below).
What I Didn’t Like:
- The feeling I had while reading Sing, Unburied, Sing was similar to how I felt while reading A Gentleman in Moscow (Part 1 of this post topic) and, to a certain extent, Exit West. These books are critical darlings and I could objectively see the elements that have the critics falling all over themselves. But, something in each book didn’t quite connect with me and I kept zoning out while reading. I’m glad I read them, but was never dying to pick them up along the way. And, while I can tick off a number of positive attributes about each one, I can’t say I loved reading them or would widely recommend them to others.
- A large element of the story involves a ghost named Richie and that entire storyline didn’t work for me. I didn’t see the purpose in him having such a big role in JoJo and Kayla’s story and, even if I accept that role as it was, I don’t understand why he had to be a ghost. His story could have been told another, less perplexing way.
- This is absolutely not the book for you if you’re looking trying to read for entertainment or to escape…it’s an emotionally tough read.
A Defining Quote:
"All’s quiet in the house, and for a stupid second I wonder why Leonie and Michael ain’t arguing about him hitting Kayla. And then I remember. They don’t care."
Good for People Who Like:
Grit Lit, emotional gut-wrenchers, gorgeous writing, serious literary fiction, critical darlings
For more reviews, visit my blog, Sarah's Book Shelves.
Most recent customer reviews
How to describe a book that is both heartbreaking, sad, raw and yet hopeful all at the same time? That really is the question.Read more
Published by Scribner, September 5, 2017
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an...Read more