Heya Book Nerds,
Today I am going to review a book which I think is one of the best books which I have read this year. I am really glad that I got the opportunity to review this book which have also won the National Book Award for Fiction.
Book Title: Sing, Unburied, Sing
Author: Jesmyn Ward
Total Number of Pages: 304
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publication Date: 1st October 2017
REVIEW BY SOHINEE DEY
Sing, Unburied, Sing is one of those books which would stick with you even after you have finished reading it. You’ll be processing everything that you’ve read time and again. The narration is going to tear you apart from time to time. It took me a while to actually close the book and when I did, I zoned out completely.
I couldn’t stop my lips from mouthing the word “wow”. WOW.
Sing, Unburied, Sing is one of the poignant pieces that I have read this year. Caressing over various topics, it doesn’t shy away from narrating the scenes with brutal honesty.
Jojo, in his 13 years of existence is learning how to be a man. The most important thing in his life is to protect his baby sister, Kayla from all the voodoo-istic powers that surrounds them. Living with his Grandfather and grandmother, he is detached from his mother, Leonie.
She said: You all right, huh, Jojo? And I looked at her and said: No, Leonie. It was a new thing, to look at her rubbing hands and her crooked teeth in her chattering mouth and not hear Mama in my head, but her name: Leonie.
Jojo follows Pop (grandfather) around and wants to be like him. So, when Pop has to get the goat liver he is going to sear for Jojo’s 13th birthday, Jojo doesn’t flinch at the thought of seeing the goat getting skinned, in fact he tries to help his Pop, he tries to be a Man.
It shows me it’s soft eye, but I don’t look away, don’t blink. Pop slits.
But, no sooner, we find him throwing up in the bushes.
This smell is worse; it’s the smell of death, the rot coming from something just alive, something hot with blood and life.
This scene was so vividly written that I was actually transported to the goat yard and I was actually witnessing Jojo reach into the goat’s stomach to pull out the innards.
Mam (grandmother) is fighting with cancer and the chemo had really left it’s after effects. Pop is the only one who is trying to hold this broken family together.
Leonie, on the other hand, is struggling with her drug habits and her dead brother doesn’t seem to stop visiting her in her drug-induced state. Her addled mind is both comforted and tormented by visions of her dead brother. When Jojo’s white father, Michael is taken away to penitentiary, Leonie completely loses it, being a teenage mother doesn’t help either. Constantly swaying between on how to be a better mother and how to establish a place for herself in the fractured family, Leonie is grappling for a place she could call home.
Set in the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, the scenes portray a time when the place affected by Hurricane Katrina. It is evident in the narrative; how water is always shown to be a problem.
As the news of the children’s father, Michael being released from prison reaches their ear, Leonie packs the kids along with her equally drug-addicted white friend and they together embark on a journey to cover the kilometres that separated them from reaching Parchman Farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary. On this long journey, we get to visit various landscapes through the characters’ eye; from drug dealings to kids who nurse an empty stomach, we get to see it all.
Too many deaths and too many people dead, yet alive. Their spirits singing, wandering and searching for a home. Jesmyn Ward has also woven a spirit world with deaths and apparitions. The unburied souls are filled with unaccomplished ambitions, destinations that were left untravelled, so they sing with their hopes, their desires, wanting someone to reach out to them and listen.
Kayla, Jojo’s toddler sister, in the last scene reaches out to the ghosts and sings to them, soothes them, comforts them, waves and asks them to go home. Sing, Unburied, Sing.
Kayla hums over my shoulder, says “Shhh” like I am the baby and she is the big brother, says “Shhh” like she remembers the sound of the water in Leonie’s womb, the sound of all water, and now she sings it.
Home, they say. Home.
I don’t think I have read a first person narrative which is so good that you almost forget that it’s a first person person narrative. The narration is so so good that every little blemish and every sordid detail stands out proudly. For the first time, I didn’t mind the shifting of POVs.
MY FINAL VERDICT
I am not going to reveal any actual part of the story because 1) it’s too complicated and too deep to explain, 2) explanation ain’t gonna do any justice to this book. This book made me cry, not just streaking down my face, but the ugly crying where your face looks and red and your skin becomes blotchy. Now I see why this book won the National Book Award for Fiction. Truly, this work of fiction is indeed a masterpiece. This book is going to make your soul sing. This is one hell of a book, so powerful in its construction and so thought-provoking with its narrative.
POESY IN CHRYSALIS RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐/⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
If you have read this book, I would love to know your thoughts. Recommend me a book too, maybe?
You can buy the book from Amazon
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