by Tayari Jones
Set in a middle-class neighborhood in Atlanta in the 1980s, Silver Sparrow 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 when secrets are revealed and illusions shattered. As Jones explores the backstories of her rich yet flawed characters – the father, the two mothers, the grandmother, and the uncle – she also reveals the joy, as well as the destruction, they brought to one another’s lives. At the heart of it all are the two lives at stake, and like the best writers – think Toni Morrison with The Bluest Eye – Jones portrays the fragility of these young girls with raw authenticity as they seek love, demand attention, and try to imagine themselves as women, just not as their mothers.
‘Silver Sparrow’ follows two young girls, Dana and Chaurisse, growing up in 1980s Atlanta. Both girls share a father, James Witherspoon, who is a bigamist. Dana and her mother are aware of James’ other family, but Chaurisse is none the wiser, despite the fact that the pair of them live in the same community. James treats his girls differently and as a result, the pair have completely different lives.
Similarly to “An American Marriage“, this story is told in two parts, shifting first person perspectives about half way through. The first belongs to Dana and the second Chaurisse.
The characters felt real but some elements of the story didn’t quite add up for me, perhaps that’s just because these families were so deeply entangled in a web of lies. I suppose in a time before the phones and social media constantly tracked our every move, a life such as James’ is very plausible indeed.
The story was a bit too long for me and I have to say that I got a little distracted in the second half. I much preferred the first half of the book, getting to know the characters and the foundation of the story and I think that this actually meant that I preferred Dana and her mother Gwen and sympathised with them a lot more. I didn’t really feel anything for Chaurisse and Laverne but I’m not entirely sure why as she certainly didn’t have an easy ride either.
Overall rating: “Silver Sparrow” is a story is about two young girls trying to find their way in a dysfunctional world full of secrets and lies. This was an okay 3 star read for me and probably not one I’m going to remember long term.
See my other reviews of books by Tayari Jones here: