It’s been a long time since I ticked one of my ‘book calendar books’ off of my TBR. I had a page-a-day book calendar in 2013 and it made my TBR swell for the first time. This book made the list, others were not as successful. I was looking for something to keep me occupied while I wait for GoT to come back and this was an option so I snatched it up.
Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
Summary from 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 the 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. This is the third stunning novel from an author deemed “one of the most important writers of her generation” (the Atlanta Journal Constitution).
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this book. To be honest, I’d forgotten the premise of it when I started listening but as the summary says, the opening line is gripping. Dana, the ‘illegitimate’ daughter, narrates the first half of the book. Through her eyes, we see Chaurisse and Laverne as ‘the other women’ and we develop a dislike for these two women who are taking everything away from Dana and Gwen. Then it’s flipped. Chaurisse gets to finish the story and we see how much love there is in the Witherspoon family and I started to feel bad for Chaurisse. At the same time, we see Dana through Chaurisse’s eyes and feel bad for her and Gwen. It was expertly done, in my opinion. Jones is a great story-teller.
Dana and Chaurisse were both products of their environment and it showed well in their personalities. Dana is taught to believe she’s better than others because her mother thinks her daughter is better than Chaurisse. Chaurisse is taught that she’s a blessing and acts like everyone’s guardian angel. I could see these people growing up on different sides of the city, both girls having the same father and being so different from each other. The parallelism was really great.
It’s hard to say who my favorite character was. At first, I liked Dana while she told the story. Then I liked Chaurisse. The one person I liked consistently was Raleigh. I felt bad for him after we learned how much he loved Gwen but I loved that he was always there for all of the characters, even James, when they really needed him.
I felt the most for Laverne. I’m not sure I share much of a history with her, but she was a good woman. She worked hard and was very loving, something I see in my mother and hope to be myself one day. It was hard to see James hurt her like he did, especially the way Gwen broke the news. I wasn’t surprised Laverne took James back, though I don’t know if I could have. I wasn’t surprised he wanted to be back with her. She was a comfort to him while Gwen was an escape. If you can only have bread or chocolate for the rest of your life, you’re better off picking bread.
I liked Dana’s narration best. It was more exciting, to say the least. And it had a lot more emotion. There was a lot more to be had, really. She had perpetual anger and judgment where Chaurisse had no reason to have those feelings every day. It was more charged. I’m still trying to figure out who I feel bad for.
I hated how we saw Gwen after the big reveal. I liked Gwen. She was rough and angry, but she was likable. The way Chaurisse saw her made her really hard to like. She wasn’t a loving mother; she was a home wrecker. That was hard to rationalize in my mind.
The audiobook was really well done. There were two narrators, Rosalyn Coleman-Williams and Heather Alicia Simms. I’m not sure which is which, honestly, but both were wonderful. I wasn’t expecting the second narrator but I liked that the producer used two voice actresses.
James challenged what Chaurisse and Dana defined as family. To Dana, it was her and her mother; that was it. James wasn’t a permanent part of her family. Arguably, Raleigh was more a part of her family than her father was. For Chaurisse, her mother and father were constants and Raleigh was a bit more fringe because she had a solid male figure in her life. When James was found out, both girls questioned everything. Did they really have a sister? I don’t think either felt like they did.
Writer’s Takeaway: The duly narrated storyline was great. I loved that tool to set up the story through Dana’s eyes and finish it with Chaurisse. I liked how Jones kept perspectives and ideas of how things worked for Dana out of Chaurisse’s eyes and vice verse. Each felt like a separate story but the connections made them a novel. It was a great tool to use in the story.
I loved this book and couldn’t find a fault in it. A full 5 out of 5 stars.
Until next time, write on.