Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

This is one of those novels you’ll be thinking about long after you turn that last page. Where you are so invested in the characters and their stories, that you feel a lingering emptiness after you put the book down and realize you can’t follow their journey any further.

Set in the fictional town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, Sing, Unburied, Sing explores ideas of family, race, poverty and the tragedy of drug abuse. Thirteen year old Jojo, and his toddler sister, Kayla, are children of a Black mother and a White father in a town with strong racial divides and tension. Their father, Michael, is in jail and their mother, Leonie, is largely absent. The kids have been raised by their grandparents, Mam and Pop. Mam is bedridden from an ongoing battle with cancer and Pop is trying his best to act as a father figure for the kids.

After Michael calls with the news that he is being released from jail, Leonie brings Jojo and Kayla on a road-trip to collect him from Parchman Farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary. Along the way, characters encounter ghosts from their own pasts, and the ghosts from hideous crimes of history. The magic of the story lies within these blurred lines of the real and imagined. Here, the mythical not only feels believable and consistent, but inevitable, as Ward’s lyrical language and illustrative description draws us into each moment.

Ward won her second National Book Award for Sing, Unburied, Sing, having first received the award in 2011 for Salvage the Bones. The book was also the first pick for the series Now Read This – an online book club by PBS and the New York Times. Each week, the site posts discussion questions and offers other curated content such as exclusive interviews with the author and reviews of the book.

Ward is an artist who looks at our world in a completely unique and beautiful way. It was a pleasure to spend time with the characters of Sing, Unburied, Sing and read this relevant and compelling story of family bonds and heartbreak.