I recently finished reading the novel “Sing Unburied Sing” by Jessym Ward. If you’re a Toni Morrison fan, listen up, Ward is the modern day Tony Morrison.
In “Sing Unburied Sing” the story is told through a multi threaded narrative. We get perspectives from Leonie, Jojo, and Richie. Jojo is a thirteen year old boy, Leonie is his mother, and Richie is one of the ghosts visible to this spiritually gifted family.
In the woods of rural Mississippi, Jojo is becoming a man (no thanks to his parents). Instead of parental guidance, Jojo is closer with his grandparents: Pop and Mam. Part of the connection with his grandparents is developed through story telling. Jojo loves to hear his grandfather’s stories about the time he spent in Parchman, a Mississippi jail, and the boy he befriended there: Richie.
Pop’s tales of Richie appear throughout the book as italicized interludes. Readers are transported from Jojo’s world and into Pops world. However there is one part of the story that Pop hasn’t told Jojo: how Richie died. Discovering this part of the story becomes an integral part of Jojo’s role within the novel.
Jojo is the main care taker for his little sister Kayla as well. Their life is routine until Jojo and Kayla’s father, Micheal, is released form jail.
Leonie insists on the children going with her to pick up Michael, and from that moment the novel becomes a road trip story gone wrong.
Favorite Part: Any time the characters are in the car. They aren’t always happy scenes, but they are very well written and compelling
Least Favorite Part: Towards the end, when Michael takes Leonie and the kids to see his parents.
Favorite Character: Pop and Jojo
Major Themes: Death, spirituality, family, music, and nature
While on the road, the family experiences many of the plights facing African Americans today. Police brutality, drug abuse, food insecurity etc.
The most prominent issue facing Jojo and Kayla as Leonie takes them to Parchman, the prison, to pick up Michael is her drug usage. Leonie is addicted to drugs and when she gets high she is able to see spirits. Specifically the ghost of her deceased brother, Given.
The ghosts become more and more prominent as the novel progresses until it departs from our world and into a world where seeing ghosts is a part of spiritual gifts that we cannot fathom. These gifts seem attached to an ancestor character that influences the lives of modern day characters.
If you are a fan of Toni Morrison or agree with the politics of Ta-nehsi Coates, then you will love this book. It is a difficult read when experiencing some of the domestic violence and drug usage within the family; however, readers stand to learn so much from the troubled characters of “Sing Unburied Sing”
xx The Professional Bookworm