Silver Sparrow – Tayari Jones

Silver Sparrow was actually recommended to me by my good friend Steph before I even planned to join the Dive Into Diversity challenge. Adding it to my challenge list was a good way to make sure I read it, though, since it’s not really the type of story I usually go for—but I’m really glad I read it.

Dana Lynn Yarboro is the secret child of a bigamist, James Witherspoon. All her life, she has watched his “real” daughter, Chaurisse, get everything she (Dana) wants: extra educational opportunities, jobs at Six Flags, and—most of all—legitimacy. Dana and her mother, Gwen, conduct occasional “surveillance” of Chaurisse and her mother, all the while stewing about what they’ve been denied.

When the girls meet by chance as teenagers, only Dana knows their true relation—until, of course, the shit inevitably hits the fan.

Silver Sparrow isn’t quite what I expected, but I really liked it. The writing style is incredibly evocative, and it’s easy to feel Dana’s pain. Though James is involved in her life—rather more than you’d expect for a “secret” child—she never calls him “Daddy,” only “James.” She longs to have him to herself, as a real father figure, and resents his “real” family for hogging him—though of course they know nothing about her or her mother.

Part of what I didn’t expect was the switch in narrator: Chaurisse narrates the entire second half of the book. At first, I wasn’t happy about this change; I’d gotten used to Dana’s voice, and I liked it. I also, much like Dana, quite resented Chaurisse for all the things she had that Dana didn’t. But it ended up being interesting to see the story from her perspective, particularly when she meets Dana. I also ended up with a grudging sympathy for her—in the end, her life (for a variety of reasons) wasn’t really much easier than Dana’s, nor was her mother’s any easier than Gwen’s.

The other thing I didn’t expect was the ending. There was all this buildup to what ended up being, in my opinion, a pretty anticlimactic conclusion. But when I thought about it, I realized that it couldn’t have ended any other way and remained at all realistic. (I know that realism isn’t necessarily the point of fiction, but still.) Though I found it disappointing, the way it ended made much more sense than anything else that could have happened. And I should note that I found it disappointing in the sense that I wanted something different for the characters; I want to make it clear that I don’t think it was a bad ending. Just sort of…a sad ending.

Silver Sparrow is one of those books that left me a bit melancholy, and I definitely needed a change of pace after finishing it. But it was really beautiful in its way, and I’m glad I read it. If you like literary fiction, I would definitely recommend giving this one a shot.


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