Posted by Book Mavens on 2nd December 2011
Title: Silver Sparrow
Author: Tayari Jones
Publisher: Chapel Hill, N.C. 2011
Summary: What would it be like to grow up knowing that you were meant to be kept a secret? Dana Lynn Yarboro, one of the sisters starring in Tayari Jones’ third novel, struggles with this very thing every day. Her father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist, and Dana and her mother Gwen are his “second” and “secret” family, a fact of which they are painfully aware. His “first” wife and daughter, Laverne and Chaurisse, have his last name and almost of his attention and time – and they know nothing about Dana and Gwen. James goes to great lengths to keep it that way. So when Dana and Chaurisse meet by accident at a science fair, things get very complicated.
The first half of the novel is narrated by Dana, and the second half by Chaurisse, and both of their stories are beautifully told. Jones does a great job portraying the complex relationships between the two families and revealing the motivations behind the web of lives they have spun. It’s fascinating to follow them as their lives slowly interconnect, and to see how the girls’ meeting changes everyone involved. I love the way the author builds the momentum in the story in spite of the change of narrator half-way through. I especially liked the fact that Chaurisse’s half of the novel picks up where Dana’s left off, and wasn’t just a retelling of the same story from a different perspective. Atlanta in the 1980’s is so wonderfully described it becomes a character itself. All of the people in Silver Sparrow are drawn with voices that are unique and will remain with me for a long time.
If you like this, try this: “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, “The Untelling” or “Leaving Atlanta” by Tayari Jones
Recommended by: Mary, Branch Reference
A second look:
Set against the backdrop of 1980’s Atlanta, Silver Sparrow perfectly captures the dichotomy of family relationships. The reader will be torn, much like James, between the two families. Dana and her mother Gwen are smart, gorgeous, vibrant women while Chaurisse and her mother Laverne are plain, hard-working, and honest. Like their father, the reader will fall in love with both girls and their mothers, often forgetting that they are two scales perfectly balanced before disaster inevitably strikes.
When a chance meeting at a science fair piques Dana’s interest in Chaurisse, it is only a matter of time until their worlds collide and, ultimately, shatter. As much as the reader feels they know each character, there is no predicting their actions when loyalties run deep- and the reader most likely will not know where their own loyalties lie. Sad, intense, and eye-opening Silver Sparrow should not be missed.
Recommended by: LB, Technical Services Assistant
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