Saturday, January 14, 2012

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

by:  Tayari Jones
published by:  Algonquin Books
publish date:  May 31, 2011

With the opening line of Silver Sparrow, “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist,” author Tayari Jones unveils a breathtaking story about a man’s deception, a family’s complicity, and two teenage girls caught in the middle.

Set in a middle-class neighborhood in Atlanta in the 1980s, the novel revolves around James Witherspoon’s two families—the public one and the secret one. When the daughters from each family meet and form a friendship, only one of them knows they are sisters. It is a relationship destined to explode when secrets are revealed and illusions shattered. As Jones explores the backstories of her rich yet flawed characters—the father, the two mothers, the grandmother, and the uncle—she also reveals the joy, as well as the destruction, they brought to one another’s lives.

I was surprised by this book.  I liked it a lot more than I was expecting to, that's not to say I opened the book expecting to hate it or anything.  It was a book that I had picked up at ALA and finally got around to reading as a shelf cleaning exercise.  It was a sink your claws in catty good time!

The first half of the book is told from the viewpoint of Dana.  Dana is James' "secret" daughter.  I liked this half of the book more than the second half, but I couldn't put my finger on any particular reason why.  I guess I liked Dana more, but that was probably because Dana and Gwen prejudiced me against Chaurisse in the beginning. 

The second half is told by Chaurisse, the public daughter.  This half was interesting, it was more confrontational.  It was hard to believe that one man could have two families in one city without the other knowing about it, but I think Chaurisse's mother knew deep down.  I think she had suspicions, there were clues sprinkled about. 

I would definitely recommend this book especially if it's something that you don't normally read, it was well written and the characters were very memorable.  The audiobook was really good too!

1 comment:

Ceska said...

Dana and Chaurisse have something in common but only one of them knows the secret. You see their parents have entered into a unique relationship. The years slowly unravel the differences but more importantly the similarities while both girls tell the story from their perspective. The parents: James, Raleigh, Gwendolyn, and Laverne enter into a special pact that will forever attach them to one another. The only problem is that everyone doesn't have a clear understanding of the arrangement. The dynamics of these parental choices determine the outcomes of the children and that is what drives this story.

The story line is one of the most original I've read this year. Jones is unique in her storytelling and the unfolding of tale will leave you mesmerized. The character descriptions are vivid and the emotions felt are real and raw. The color differences - silver (natural beauties) and the others - reminded me of great African American literature from the past. Jones is an author that is sharing her God given gift and I recognize her awesome should you. Tayari Jones is one of the modern 'talented tenth'.