Date Read: July 2nd 2022
Publisher: Algonquin Books
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).
Review –★★★★ (4 stars)
Wow. There is a special place in hell for this James Witherspoon character, with Raleigh (James’ right-hand man) following right after him. Just, wow.
I enjoyed Dana’s chapters way more than Chaurisse’s chapters. Since the book starts off with Dana’s chapters, I really wanted to give this book 5 stars. But as we transitioned into Chaurisse’s story, I started to not really care about her self-deprecating, under-achieving demeanor. Also, some bits of the story felt overly dramatic and almost unrealistic when we were approaching the climax of the nonsense James orchestrated.
I did love how with each of the girls’ chapters, we are taken through their parents’ past. The way James and Laverne (Chaurisse’s parents) met and settled down was so different from how James and Gwen (Dana’s parents) met and ‘settled down’. Raleigh’s past had my heart sooooo heavy, whew! Even though we are introduced to Miss Bunny briefly, I really loved her! What a woman. A true, selfless MVP.
If I had read this book when I was in my teens or 20’s, I would have judged Gwen and Dana so harshly. But since I read this while in my 30’s, I somewhat appreciate Gwen’s decisions and understand her. There is a lot of pain in this book. There are no winners or losers in this story… oh wait – James is definitely a loser in this story. There is absolutely no way that anyone can make me sympathize with such a wicked, heartless, confused, selfish man, ei! It’s so interesting how James actually thinks he’s a noble man, full of integrity because he honored both women by marrying them ; but he didn’t treat both families equally at all. How he treated Dana, especially at the end when she reveals to readers her last encounter with him was terrible.
Silver Sparrow is a really complicated 1980’s story about family, secrets and sisterhood. Social class and privilege more layers of complexity to the story. The way Tayari Jones writes about her hometown – Atlanta, and the South, shows her immense love for the region. I’m trying to understand why hair played such a large role in this book; there are many scenes in Laverne’s hair salon and Chaurisse often compared her meagre hair to Dana’s luscious mane. There seemed to be a stark juxtaposition between the girls’ level of privilege with the abundance of their hair. I found that weirdly interesting.
Tayari Jones is an author I’m really beginning to love. I gave An American Marriage 5 stars back in 2020, and I do see her growth as a writer in that book.
★★★★ (4 stars) – Great book. Highly recommend!
Purchase Silver Sparrow on Amazon