We Have Moved!

We have moved our blog to the new CHB website! Check us out over there to find our latest stories and reviews!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Review: Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Sometimes a book comes in to the store that looks so good I have to put aside everything else I'm reading and devour it right then. Tayari Jones' novel "Silver Sparrow" was definitely one of those. Not only did the blurb contain the opening line: "My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist" but it also compared Jones to Toni Morrison . You don't set something like that aside, you cradle it to your chest and take it home to begin immediately.

"Silver Sparrow" takes place in 1980's Atlanta and tells the story of James Witherpoon's two families through the eyes of his "secret daughter" Dana and her legitimate sister Chaurisse. The this story of life and lies is made all the more heartrending and intense by the fact it is being told by the two blameless characters caught between their father's actions. The first half of the novel is told by Dana and as a reader you very quickly sympathize with her. Dana's revelation that she is a part of a "secret family" and that she and her mother often perform surveillance on her father's other family brings to mind many questions of identity. While Jones never really tackles the identity issue head-on I found it to be one of the most fascinating aspects of the novel. Who we are has so much to do with who we are in relation to each other.

At one point in the novel Dana begins a conversation with a man she knows to be her grandfather who knows her only as a stranger passing his house on the street, until he says "please excuse my clothes and such... I was just doing yard work. I didn't figure on meeting you." Dana realizes that her grandfather has known who she is, her identity has been revealed not only through her looks but also through their "surveilling." Jones may be suggesting components of identity in this way, that it is made up of both who we are and what we do.

Dana is not lost by being a secret child. She has more control over her identity by the virtue of her familial history, while her sister, Chaurisse, has been sheltered from the truth of her father's lifestyle and leads a life of not so blissful ignorance. Chaurisse may have a legitimate family life but she is desperately lonely and insecure. Her dream is to be "silver," which is what she "called girls who were natural beauties but who also smoothed on a layer of pretty from a jar. It wasn't how they looked, it was how they were" (there's the question of identity again). Thus Dana enters into Chaurisse's life. They meet in the cosmetics aisle of a pharmacy. Dana is irresistibly silver and Chaurisse longs to be her friend, to catch her silver properties. For her part, Dana has grown tired of surveilling and is looking for an opportunity to experience more of Chaurisse's life.

I'm sure you can imagine where a friendship between these girls leads, but it's not really the happenings in the plot that matter. It's in the way Jones has them unfold. This is a story of families, both typical and not-so. The characters are real and true. "Silver Sparrow" is a beautiful story for all of it's sadness, within its pages Tayari Jones delves into the meaning of love and family, secrets and betrayals and comes away with a novel that tells a story that is simultaneously unique and universal. You should definitely read this book.

Advance Reading Copy reviewed from Algonquin Books

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...