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One move to America, one surprise pregnancy and a lot of fun later.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Silver Sparrow

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.

At the heart of it all are the two lives at stake, and like the best writers think Toni Morrison with "The" "Bluest Eye "Jones portrays the fragility of these young girls with raw authenticity as they seek love, demand attention, and try to imagine themselves as women, just "not" as their mothers.

I had never heard of this author until I went to the National Book Festival this year, held annually on The Mall in Washington DC.  I went with my friend Vicki and we were wanting to hear Jeffrey Eugenides speak so we grabbed some lunch and went a bit early to the pavilion that he was speaking in so we could get a good seat and eat our lunch in the shade (it was an unseasonable 80 odd degrees outside).  By going into the pavilion early we ended up hearing the author, Tayari Jones, read an excerpt from her latest book (this one) and just generally discuss her life and writing.  She really made an impact on me.  She was just so "real" and well spoken and funny and just everything I would want from a friend, never mind a writer, so I thought I would seek out any of her 3 books and give them a go.  I started with this book, which is her third, because it jumped on me from the express shelf in my local library.  I was hoping I would not be disappointed after having such high hopes and a high opinion of the author from the book festival.

I loved this book.  She has a very smooth style of writing that just reflects the everyday lives of real people without any unnecessary drama - ok, perhaps there is some drama in a bigamist relationship but somehow she managed to reflect the characters lives as if you were there living it with them.  She also managed to get across the African American characters without having to opt for writing the whole book in a stereotypical Negro vernacular, which, quite frankly, I do not enjoy and ruins a perfectly good story for me. 

I couldn't put the book down and I got worried towards the end as I wondered how she would tie it all up.  I hoped she wouldn't go for the dramatic effect with a courtroom showdown, like Jodi Picoult excels at.  I was not disappointed.  Without inserting spoilers, the ending felt like what would happen in the "real" world and didn't have to resort to unnecessary drama to sell the book.

An author to really watch out for and I will definitely be looking out for her first two books, Leaving Atlanta and The Untelling, for future reading.    5 out of 5 from me.

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