Jesmyn Ward – Sing, Unburied, Sing.


Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing is a stunner of a novel.  It is complex and touches upon issues, mainly racism but in order to elaborate on this novel’s richness, one would have to write a thesis. I’ll try summarise it in a few paragraphs.

Jojo, his mother,Leonie and sister, Kaley live together with Leonie’s grandparents. Jojo is edging into his teenage years and is learning the usual rites of passage. Leonie then receives a call stating that her white husband, Michael’s prison term is over. Leonie, then has to drive to prison to pick her up. There are complications; Leonie is a drug addict and is finding it difficult to put her kid’s interest first, her mother is dying of cancer and she is constantly seeing the ghost of her dead brother.

During the road trip Kaley gets sick , has to deliver a bag of crystal meth and JoJo (who is the main narrator of the story) is seeing the ghost of his grandfather’s fellow prisoner Richie, who is on a quest to find out why he died.

Sounds complicated? well I make it sound like that but Ward makes things sound quite straightforward. This is just the superficial summary.

The ghosts are the pivotal characters of the novel for they represent racism, ingrained attitudes and America’s cruel past. The two ghost also provide a link to the characters actions. Although Richie is a stronger link to Jojo’s grandfather’s past while Leonie’s brother, Given is more a result of racial hatred, saying that towards the end of the book Given has a bigger role.

Ward’s prose is a unique. She just knows how to make sentences shine with her use of English. How she manages to mix broken English and make it sound so poetic is a wonderful, trust me Ward can create the simplest metaphor and make sound so profound. As mentioned earlier, she also has a knack of creating complicated story-lines and making them sound simple.  So much talent that I could not put the book down and I read it in 48 hours ( started it on a Saturday night and finished it early Monday morning)

Sing, Unburied, Sing is a slightly uneasy read sue to its subject matter , mostly sexual and drug abuse but it is addictive. Ward writes intelligently and tackles social issues in a way that I have not read before.  Please do read this book is you can, it is a stunner.