Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

“My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist.” So starts Silver Sparrow. A complicated, elaborate tale of marriage, lies, deceit and the effect it has had on the two teenagers caught in the middle of it all.

I adored Silver Sparrow. Tayari Jones writes with an empathy and an understanding unlike many other writers. This was a brave story to take on. Bigamy is a subject which very few of us (myself included) know anything about. There are many preconceived notions to be addressed. As such, it was always going to require a deft touch to make us care about the characters and not just focus on the bigamy.

“What doesn’t kill you, doesn’t kill you. That’s all you get. Sometimes, you just have to hope that’s enough.”

Silver Sparrow

The two girls at the centre of this novel, Dana and Chaurisse, are two of the most likable characters I have ever read in a book. Both are condemned by their father’s actions and yet manage to be dignified and brave. They both face similar insecurities and have an awful lot in common, despite having never met each other. The truly wonderful thing Jones does, is switching the narrator from Dana to Chaurisse halfway through the book. It came at a time when I thought I understood all the characters, I had formed my opinions and yet this new perspective shifted all of that on its head. It is almost like reading two books in one which dovetail into one beautiful narrative at the end. If Silver Sparrow had remained with just the one narrator throughout then I’m sure it would have still been a wonderful book but it would have lost a lot of depth.

Tayari Jones is clearly extremely passionate about what she writes. Her representation of the black community throughout the 60s, 70s and onwards is loving, authentic and vitalising. Never straying into stereotypes or lazy archetypes, each character has a depth to them which I am certain will make this a book worth rereading several times. It is impossible to utterly denounce any character, even James, the instigator of the entire mess they find themselves in, as each member of the family has a wide array of redeeming qualities as well as exasperating flaws. By the end of Silver Sparrow you will have formed strong feelings about the characters, not all positive, but all based on a detailed and thorough dissection of their role in the mess.

Another aspect of the book which surprised me pleasantly was the humour. I was worried that a book about a family coming to terms with bigamy would be a dour affair but the vibrant representation of the community if often hysterical. There was more than one occasion when this book made me laugh out loud and that is a rare thing. A lot of that comes from the realistic portrayal of the cast of character in Silver Sparrow. It is very skilfully executed by Tayari Jones.

This book is an absolute tour de force. Funny, moving, infuriating, provoking and so much more. Tayari Jones’s last novel An American Marriage was a masterpiece but for me this has surpassed it. If you are looking for a story to connect to this is the one. I haven’t read many better books which pick apart the family dynamic like this one and I am happy to unreservedly recommend it to every one of you. Thanks for reading!

I would like to thank Oneworld for allowing me to be part of this blog tour and send me a review copy of Silver Sparrow.  

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