Sing, Unburied, Sing

Author Jesmyn Ward
Vote 8/10
Reviewed on 2018-12-23
Read in English

Interesting plot and narrative device. Each chapter is titled with the name of its narrator, starting from Jojo, a kid in Southern US. We enter the book by listening to the young kid who, on his 13th birthday (when he’s considered to have become a man), follows his grandfather River to the place where they slaughter a sheep. (With gory details, but they make sense.) We enter a whole world of love and admiration with a background of violence.

Main characters of the story are Jojo and Leonie, his mother, who decides to go get her husband, Michael, the day he is supposed to get out of prison, upstate. They bring along Michaela (Kayla), Jojo’s infant sister, and Leonie’s friend. There are a few complications: Leonie is a drug addict, who sees the ghost of her brother Given when she’s high on meth; and Jojo sees the ghost of a young boy. And this young boy had died long before this story starts, and the story of his death is tied to the life in prison of Jojo’s grandfather, who is Leonie’s father, River.

Or maybe we could see the whole story as the young kid’s ghost story of violence and redemption, helped by the narrators.

I found many fascinating elements. The description of life in prison in the distant past and how the cruel conditions affect the prisoners, yesterday like today. The contact with Nature and its healing powers passed down from parent to child by teaching how herbs and plants can be used to cure everything. The hardship in a relationship between a white man and a black woman. The tenderness of a parent that can easily become physical violence and both are so damn close. The love of a mother unable to care for her children. The love of the grandfather for his grandson and granddaughter. The strength of the grandmother as a woman and as a shaman. The supernatural element. The way the plot is unveiled. The grandfather that keeps telling a story, but is unable to tell it linearly, and always forgets the ending, and discovering why.

A pretty good book. Read it.