Sunday, April 15, 2012

Review: Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Rating: 4 Stars
Pages: 245 (eBook)
Genre: General Fiction
Series/Standalone: Standalone
Publication Date: May 2011
Source: Purchased

Synopsis (Goodreads):
With the opening line of "Silver Sparrow," "My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist," author Tayari Jones unveils a breathtaking story about a man's deception, a family's complicity, and two teenage girls caught in the middle.
Set in a middle-class neighborhood in Atlanta in the 1980s, the novel revolves around James Witherspoon's two families-the public one and the secret one. When the daughters from each family meet and form a friendship, only one of them knows they are sisters. It is a relationship destined to explode when secrets are revealed and illusions shattered. As Jones explores the backstories of her rich yet flawed characters-the father, the two mothers, the grandmother, and the uncle-she also reveals the joy, as well as the destruction, they brought to one another's lives. 
At the heart of it all are the two lives at stake, and like the best writers-think Toni Morrison with "The" "Bluest Eye-"Jones portrays the fragility of these young girls with raw authenticity as they seek love, demand attention, and try to imagine themselves as women, just "not" as their mothers.

     I don't remember where I first heard of Tayari Jones' Silver Sparrow, probably from another blog.  But I right away I knew I wanted to read it.  The story idea sound original and the main characters were black.  I don't think I have ever read a story about bigamy in the black community.  I decided that Silver Sparrow would be prefect for a group read and made it April book club read.   This book worked well for a group discussion, everyone loved it and each person saw things a little different.  If you are looking for a novel that would make a good book club choice I would highly suggest this one.

      Jones handle her topic like a pro (probably because she is).  The story is told from the view point of the two main characters, Dana and Chaurisse.  Jones dedicates the first half to Dana and the second half to Chaurisse.  The way that Jones handled the story is a key element in why I enjoyed it so much.  The fact that first I got to see know about Dana, how her parents James and Gwen met.  Then how she lived her life as the "second" daughter, and the relationship she had with her father.  After Dana comes Chaurisse which allows for the reader to compare and contrast the two girls lives.  You get to see the similarities and difference.  The backstory was rich and helped the reader to understand why the characters did what they did.

     I think one of the great things about Silver Sparrow, was that I didn't end up hating any of the characters.  I didn't like James and his brother, Raleigh (who helped James keep up his two different lives.), decision but I didn't hate them for it.  Probably because the backstory allowed me to see why they did what they did.  I was able to understand how there past played a part in the decision that they had.  There really was no villain, just ordinary people caught in a sticky situation.

     James' actions had a deep affect on both his daughters.  There was Dana, the secret child, who just wanted to know that her father loved her as much as he did his legitimate daughter.  Dana also wanted a relationship with the sister's whose shadow she lives under.  Everything that Dana wants is ultimately either granted or rejected depending on what Chaurisse wants.  If Dana wants to go to a special summer program and Chaurisse wants to go to the same program, Dana can't go.

     On the to other side of town there is Chaurisse, who is completely unaware to the fact that she has a sister or that her father even has a second family.  In her mind and world they are like the Cosby family, normally, unexciting, ordinary.  Chaurisse longs for someone that understands her.  She is lonely and only really has her mother, no friends.  She is struggling to find acceptance with her peers, who she had very little in common with because she spends most of her time helping her mother at her hair salon.

      What this all ends up boiling down to is James ending up raising two girls in two different home environments that want the same thing, a sister.

     Silver Sparrow is a great book.  The written is very engaging, I found myself reading about 75% of it in one sitting and waking up the next morning to finish it.  I just had to see what happened in the end.  I would describe this as an easy read but there is some gems of truth that made me glad that I brought this book in electronic format so that I wouldn't feel bad about highlighting passages.

An example:
People say, That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger.  But they are wrong.  What doesn't kill you, doesn't kill you.  That's all you get.  Sometimes, you just have to hope that's enough

Overall Recommendation:
Highly recommended.  I wouldn't have any problem recommending this book to anyone.  In fact, I am going to tell my sister to read it.  I am also going to put Tayari Jones other two novels (Leaving Atlanta and The Untelling) on my TBR list.


  1. This book has gotten great reviews from everyone i know that has read it. The Untelling was not one of my favorite reads if I'm not mistaken, I think i read it years ago. I might go back and refresh my memory. i'm going to read Leaving atlanta also.

    1. There have been books that I loved years ago, and when I went to re-read them I didn't enjoy them as much. It has worked the other way around also.

      Maybe you will enjoy The Untelling more the second time around.