Sing, Unburied, Sing
By Jesmyn Ward
Finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction
The searing and profound odyssey of a Southern family—by National Book Award-winner Jesmyn Ward.
In Jesmyn Wards’s first novel since her National Book Award-winner, Salvage the Bones, she returns to Mississippi and the grand themes of her earlier work. Confronting the realities of life in the rural South, Ward gives us an epochal story, a road novel through Mississippi’s past and present that explores the bonds of family as tested by racism and poverty. Told in Ward’s rich, lyrical language, this majestic novel is impossible to ignore.
For Pop and Mam, their daughter Leonie, and her kids Jojo and Kayla, life is hard: Mam has cancer, Pop is preoccupied by working their small parcel of land, Leonie has a meth problem, and Jojo and Kayla seek love from their grandparents rather than their absent mother. Their lives are further complicated when Leonie gets the call from the white father of her children that he’s up for parole. She quickly gathers her kids, recruits a friend for the ride, and embarks on the journey north to the Delta to collect Michael at Parchman Farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary. But no journey for a woman like Leonie through this state is without danger, and many things go wrong, sometimes dramatically.
If the trip to Parchman is rocky, the return is worse, and arriving at home doesn’t bring Leonie and her family the peace they seek. Instead, two battles ensue: one with Mississippi’s present and another with its horrific past. Raw, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful, Jesmyn Ward’s novel grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of our national story, paying tribute to Faulkner and Morrison, The Odyssey and the Old Testament, all while showcasing the major talents of this singular American voice.