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Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward - Review

Thursday, May 30, 2019


I bought this off eBay because I've been wanting to read it since it was on the shortlist for the Women's Prize for Fiction last year. I actually wanted this to be my book club choice for the year, but went for the Poison Tree instead. I still wanted to read this though.

It is narrated by multiple people. First of all there's Jojo, who is thirteen. It's his birthday right at the beginning of the book. He lives with his little sister Kayla, to whom he is more of a parent than a brother, his mother Leonie, who doesn't really care about her children, preferring their father Michael, and Leonie's parents Pop and Mam. Mam is dying of cancer. Pop is elderly, having had children in his fifties, and spent time in Parchman prison when he was fifteen. Leonie and her parents are black; Michael is white. Michael is in prison at Parchman, about to be released.

Pop tells Jojo stories about being in prison, telling him about a boy even younger than him, Richie, who was imprisoned and then badly beaten when he broke a hoe.

Michael is being released so Leonie sets off to pick him up, driving several hours north from their Mississippi home. She takes Jojo and Kayla and her friend Misty. They stay with a "friend" near to the prison. Misty and Leonie get high with him. Jojo sees something cooking meth round about. Kayla is really ill and keeps throwing up.

Meanwhile, the whole family is kind of psychic. Mam always used her skills of seeing what was wrong in someone's body to help heal them even though she couldn't do it for herself. Leonie, when she gets high, sees her dead brother Given and argues with him. Jojo can hear animals sing and can sometimes see ghosts. Kayla can also see ghosts.

I liked this book - not really my usual kind of thing but I liked the gothic feel to it and the crossing of the veil in all directions. I loved Jojo and Kayla and even though Leonie was a pretty bad mum I still felt a lot of sympathy for her. I will warn for violence, racial hatred, suicide and death. It is pretty dark. I'm giving it four out of five.

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