Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

I heard about this book back in July when Tayari Jones was at a local bookstore for an appearance (that I didn’t attend, but now wish I had!). The premise intrigued me at the time, but there was a long waiting list for it and I decided to wait until a more opportune time to read this novel. Last week, it jumped out at me from our new books area and I remembered how much I wanted to read it and I am so glad I did.

Silver Sparrow is split in two halves – the first half is narrated by Dana Yarboro, a teen girl with a rebellious voice, a smart and pretty girl who wants to be a doctor. The second half is narrated by her sister, Chaurisse Witherspoon, an average student and mostly obedient daughter who is lonely and longs for a friend. Dana knows that Chaurisse is her sister, but Chaurisse doesn’t know that she and Dana share the same father – James Witherspoon, who’s committed bigamy by marrying both her mother and Dana’s mother.

Dana lives with complete knowledge of her father’s double life. She knows he has a “real” wife and daughter and she’s even seen them because they live within blocks of each other in the same area of Atlanta and her mother, Gwen, has a penchant for surveilling the rival family. Chaurisse, however, doesn’t know anything about her sister and grows up believing that her family is typically normal.

In their senior year of high school the girls suddenly become acquainted and it is only a matter of time before the truth is harshly revealed.

I will not waver in letting you know how wonderful this book is. It is definitely one of my favorites of the year. The characters practically sing their stories – Jones’s language is a kind of raw melody and her dialogue is soaring. I feel like I know both Dana and Chaurisse, as well as their mothers. Each woman’s feelings, desires and fears are distinctly conveyed. James’s character is not as fully explored because neither daughter really understands or connects with their father. But he’s not portrayed as a monster.

The two girls are so different yet I was able to relate to both of them. Their struggles are heartbreaking and I admire the way Jones makes both sides of the story equally significant. She doesn’t sway the reader in either direction or force us to choose sides.

I adored this novel. I experienced an intense emotional connection to the characters and to the story. It is my favorite kind of book – one that will leave a lasting impression.

3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. It is very much a knock-out, Lisa. I highly recommend it! I knew that the silver part came from Chaurisse calling Dana a “silver girl”, a girl who is pretty and popular and untouchable, but I didn’t know what the sparrow was for. I found an explanation from the author herself: “I took sparrow from the hymn ‘His Eye Is On The Sparrow’ — being the sparrow is the least among us,” Jones says. “Because I think that’s what Dana is, she’s a silver sparrow.”

Thank you for reading and commenting.

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