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October 2018 – Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

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Sing, Unburied, Sing 
by Jesmyn Ward

Publication Date: 
List Price: $26.00 (store prices may vary)
Format: Hardcover
Classification: Fiction
Page Count: 304
ISBN13: 9781501126062
Imprint: Scribner
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Parent Company: CBS Corporation

Read a Review of Sing, Unburied, Sing by Book Club Moderator, Tony Lindsay

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Wow, we are on our second book, and what a book! Below is my post,

 

Sing, Unburied, Sing Jesmyn Ward 

 

While reading the novel, I kept wondering what was it building up to, what would be the climax; despite this wondering, I kept reading because I was engrossed in the day-to-day life of a Black family on a farm. I remained caught up in the “what is going to happen next” that was unrelated to a major climatic event in the novel. I speculate that some may say the major event was the freed spirits or Kayla stepping into her role as a seer. Others may say it was Leonie’s attempts at being a healer or Jojo seeing Richie - arguing that Pops' story was build up to that event. I argue that Ward “bucked” tradition with this novel and held the reader with smaller day-to-day climaxes instead of holding them with plot build up that lead to one climax.  From the killing of the goat, to Pops’ story about Parchman prison, to Jojo’s thirst, to the Kayla’s near death, to Mam’s death, to Michael’s prison release, to children hearing the unburied sing, to Jojo seeing sprits and hearing animals, the reader is engrossed by smaller climatic events and not the plot building up to one climax – the novel read like real life. 

I believe the protagonist of the novel was Jojo; however, Ward gave us other character’s backstories with such depth that I am sure others will argue for Leonie. Jojo had the goal of keeping Kayla safe and accepting his and his family’s spiritual powers. 

I see Leonie as Jojo’s antagonist; she is a physical threat to Kayla and to Jojo’s own development. Leonie’s neglect of Kayla forces Jojo into a parental role that Leonie resents. 

The main message of the novel was the need for family. Ward used a family under attack by racism, the prison industrial complex, and addiction to illustrate how an individual needs family. Mam would not have transitioned without Leonie, Jojo would have not had a guide without Pops – the need for family is strong in the novel. 

The family being under attack was one motif, along with the individual being attacked by addiction and the effects on the addict and the family of the addict. 

The most effective metaphor was “Given-not-Given” showing the strength of addiction; Ward had a ghost brother appear to try and help Leonie see the error of her ways, but a ghost was powerless over her addiction.

The most memorable scenes were Kayla throwing up in that car and at the lawyer’s house, on Leonie, on Misty, and the police officer; the child puked on the putrid life of the addicted. 

I believe this text represents the malady of societal attacks on poor families within America. With this book, Ward illuminates those attacks and calls for families to remain strong. 

Without a doubt, I would read another Jesmyn Ward book.    

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Please keep in mind, the forum is open -  post what you think about our selected reads - the questions are only suggestions, not required guide lines - we want read your thoughts 🙂

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