Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward @jesmimi @ScribnerUK

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Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward  September 5th 2017

This is the story of JoJo.   Jojo is 13, of mixed race and lives in Mississippi, with his little sister Micheala, Grandad Pop, Grandma Mama and Mum Leonie.  The family are poor, Mum Leonie is a drug addict, father Michael is in prison and Grandma is dying of cancer.

What Jojo likes best is listening to Pop’s stories of his friend Richie when they were both in Parchment prison, the same prison as his father Michael now resides.  Jojo lives with the hope that one day Pops will tell him what happened to Richie.

When Leonie decides to take Jojo and Michaela on a road trip to Parchment to collect their father, the ghosts of the past swirl and weave around them. For Leonie it is her brother Given, shot when he was a teenager, for Jojo, Richie, begging him to take him back to Pops.

The oppressive steamy heat of Mississippi rises from the pages and perfectly sets the tone of the novel.

The tension between the characters is palpable as Leanne tries and fails to be a mother, preferring drugs and Michael, attempting to block out the abject poverty and the slow demise of her mother.

Jojo is brilliantly portrayed. This young boy, forced so early into adulthood, full of adoration for  his Grandfather, yet totally lost with no obvious direction to his life.  Your heart goes out to him as you know the rest of his life will never be simple, will always be a struggle.

Ward is adept at dealing with the issues of race, poverty, of the difficulties multi racial families cope with on a day to day basis in the deep south. There is always the hint of the South’s past slavery and treatment of blacks lurking just below the surface.

Ward has written a multi-layered novel that is just wonderful.

Thank you to Scribner and Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review

About the author

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Jesmyn Ward was born in 1977 in Delisle, Mississippi. She earned a BA at Stanford University in 1999 and a Masters degree in 2000.

In 2011 she won the National Book Award for Fiction and the 2012 Alex Award for her novel Salvage The Bones.

Currently Jesmyn teaches at Tulane University.

Sing, Unburied Sing has been shortlisted for the 2017  National Book Award, is a Kirkus Prize finalist and a 2017 Carnegie Prize finalist.

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