You are here

Sing, Unburied, Sing (Hardcover)

Staff Pick Logo
Sing, Unburied, Sing Cover Image
Usually Ships in 1-5 Days

Staff Reviews

Anyone who harbored a trace of doubt about Ward’s literary chops after reading the National Book Award-winning Salvage the Bones can lay that doubt to rest. Ward’s third novel is a marvel and a wonder, possessed of a narrative line that keeps your heart in your throat for all 285 pages. We watch inhumanity play itself out in the person of Leonie, mother to Jojo—and, despite our revulsion, we somehow find things in her to love—or if not love at least understand. We fall headlong for Jojo himself, small, sturdy of heart, caregiver of his sister Kayla, and are instantly ensnared as they, along with a friend, drive toward the barbarous Mississippi prison Parchmont to pick up Leonie’s white husband, drive homeward with him and with Richie, the disembodied spirit of a boy Jojo’s age whose past is tangled with the past of the prison, the past of Jojo’s family. Sing Unburied, Sing is an important book the way The Sound and the Fury was—lyrical, truth-telling, often agonizing and as often alive with an awareness of the courage and grace in small children and in damaged adults alike. It’s not a book you’ll ever forget. Not ever.

— From Betsy Burton


*Finalist for the Kirkus Prize
*Finalist for the Andrew Carnegie Medal

*Finalist for the Aspen Words Literary Prize
*Publishers Weekly Top 10 of 2017
*Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award

"The heart of Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing is story--the yearning for a narrative to help us understand ourselves, the pain of the gaps we'll never fill, the truths that are failed by words and must be translated through ritual and song...Ward's writing throbs with life, grief, and love, and this book is the kind that makes you ache to return to it." --Buzzfeed

In Jesmyn Ward's first novel since her National Book Award-winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America. An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing journeys through Mississippi's past and present, examining the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power--and limitations--of family bonds.

Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn't lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent White father, Michael, who is being released from prison; his absent White grandfather, Big Joseph, who won't acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given, who died as a teenager.

His mother, Leonie, is an inconsistent presence in his and his toddler sister's lives. She is an imperfect mother in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is Black and her children's father is White. She wants to be a better mother but can't put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. Simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she's high, Leonie is embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances.

When the children's father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another thirteen-year-old boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.

Rich with Ward's distinctive, lyrical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an unforgettable family story.

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9781501126062
ISBN-10: 1501126067
Publisher: Scribner Book Company
Publication Date: September 5th, 2017
Pages: 304
Language: English