Posted by : Halima Khait Monday, September 17, 2012
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, while browsing my Twitter timeline. Unfortunately, I can't remember who was discussing the novel so I can't thank them for the recommendation, but I'm following suit and recommending it to my readers.
I always hate going into too much detail when reviewing a novel because I don't want to give too much of the plot away, but in brief, this is a story told by two, teenage daughters of a polygamist, James Witherspoon. The first half of the novel is in the voice of Dana Lynn Yarboro, Witherspoon's oldest daughter. Dana's mother, Gwen, is Witherspoon's second wife, but she and Dana have been kept secret from his first wife, Laverne and their daughter, Chaurisse. Hers in an interesting perspective because she is pretty familiar with the comings and goings of Laverne and Chaurisse, while they have no concept of her connection to them. The second half of the novel is told by Chaurisse. This provided a dynamic shift in the story because the reader had the opportunity to see Dana and the polygamist situation through her eyes for 160 pages, so it was a different perspective hearing about her, the effects of the polygamy and Chaurisse through Chaurisse's voice.
That's all I'm going to reveal as far as plot, but I do want to share a stylistic element and language that I fell in love with from my favorite chapter titled Uncle Raleigh. The chapter is a flashback from when Dana was 9 years old and begins with:
"I am neither religious nor superstitious, but there is something otherworldly about the space where two roads come together. The devil is said to set up shop there if you want to swap your soul for something more useful. If you believe that God can be bribed, it's also the hallowed ground to make sacrifices. In the literal sense, it's also a place to change direction, but once you've changed it, you're stuck until you come to another crossroads, and who knows how long that will be."
And without giving anything away about the plot and what transpired in this chapter, it ends with:
"When we passed the sign to get on the interstate highway, he didn't put on his turn signal and instead kept driving along the two-lane road. He slowed a bit at every intersection, giving my mother the chance to ask him to change course."
Loved how Jones used the 13 pages that made up this chapter to bring this story within the story full circle.
Also, am a big fan of this paragraph because it feels like a childhood memory:
"August was canning season, so the women were busy washing tomatoes, peaches, and beets. Willie Mae was saving her money to buy two window air conditioners; in the meantime we kept cool with window-box and funeral-home fans...Across the street, a lady sold Styrofoam cups of frozen Kool-Aid for a dime, but my mother had told me not to eat from strange people's houses. I spent most of the time in the kitchen, up under Willie Mae, who would stumble over me from time to time. The atmosphere was thick with the sugary smell of boiling fruit. I would lick my forearm and taste salt."
I'd give this novel five out of five stars; highly recommended.