Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Silver Sparrow

Silver SparrowSilver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A few lines from one of my favorite songs from the Temptations:

Hey Mama, is it true what they say,
that Papa never worked a day in his life?
And Mama, bad talk going around town
saying that Papa had three outside children and another wife.
And that ain't right.

That's what I always heard it called, "outside children."

Tayari Jones' novel, the first half narrated by Dana Witherspoon, begins "My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist." I always imagined a bigamist as a long distance player who married more than one woman and kept separate families in different cities. James Witherspoon is a rather ordinary man who stutters, and has his outside child with her mother Gwen who both know they are not the "legal" family, whom they can surveill at will as they all live in Atlanta.

Silver Sparrow was chosen by The Today Show as the #1 book for summer. Some critics are praising Tayari Jones as the next Toni Morrison. It's a story with many layers of interpretation. Dana who wants a real family and her half-sister Chaurisse, whom she inevitably meets, wants to be one of the popular girls with best friends. A silver girl like Dana. The story propels them to a sad ending I will continue to analyze for a long time.

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This had to be the longest R&B single ever, at seven minutes. I love the two minute intro with guitar, trumpets and strings. The ensemble piece gives each of the five singers a chance to solo.

1 comment:

Luxembourg said...

This is one of the most honest and powerful books I've read in a long time. Told from the point-of-view of a bigamist's two daughters, it traces the complicated and painful knots tied by a man trying to keep his 2 families separate but equal. They are never equal, of course, and the tension builds and builds as both daughters try to understand their place in his heart, try to figure out who is first, and wrestle all the missing pieces away from each other.

Jones is a master at conveying the complexities of her characters--their selfish sides, their loving sides--and all the pain that can come from normal people craving normal things: love, life, security, family. It's a captivating story, but the last third will grab you so hard, you'll still be feeling it long after the book is done. A smart, captivating and brilliantly imagined novel.