Jojo is a 13 year old mixed race boy who lives with his grandma, grandpa, and little sister. His mother also lives with them, but Leonie is a drug addict who doesn’t really want to be a mother at all. When Jojo’s father sends word that he will be released from prion Leonie decides to load up Jojo and his sister to go get him. Through this multi-perspective book, we get to understand Jojo in relation to his family.
Jesmyn Ward’s writing is always my favorite part of her stories and this was no different. She crafted a story that is filled with beautiful prose and imaginative imagery. Her storytelling abilities never fail me. Leonie is such a complex and, frankly, horrible person and the fact that Ward was able to make me hate her is a testament to her character writing abilities. I wanted to reach into the story and hold Jojo and Kayla and tell them that there are people who love them. Jojo’s affection for his sister was so touching and I absolutely loved how protective he was of her. Another thing I enjoyed was the appearance of Esch and Skeetah from Salvage the Bones, one of my favorite books. Sing, Unburied, Sing is a look at family, family history, and ghost of the past. There is a ghost story, magical realism element that I really enjoyed but at times felt hard to follow.
Although the book is less than 300 pages, it is a slow read and I honestly wasn’t always excited to pick it up. Mainly, it was Leonie’s character that I could not stomach through a lot of the book and I did not like to read from her perspective because I found her silly. Her lack of empathy and emotion toward he children was awful and I could not find a redeeming quality in her. Also, as a I said before, the magical realism in the book was interesting but I wasn’t engaged during those parts.
Overall, I would recommend this book to a specific reader. Having only read one other Jesmyn Ward book and loving it, this one was a bit of a disappointment. I feel like this book warrants a re-read to catch everything it has to offer. Of course, I will continue to read anything Ward writes and I plan on reading her other fiction and all of her non-fiction books.
Have you read this book? What did you think about it? Do you believe the hype is warranted? Let’s chat in the comments.
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