Review: Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

July 13, 2011 Algonquin Books, General Fiction, Literary Fiction, Review, Women's Fiction 11

  • Hardcover:352 pages
  • Publisher:Algonquin Books (May 24, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 1565129903
  • Source: Publisher

Dana Lynn Yarboro and Bunny Chaurisse Witherspoon are both teen girls, growing up in 1980s Atlanta.  They are also half-sisters, both daughters of a bigamist, James Witherspoon.  Only Dana and her mother, Gwen, are aware of James’ double life.

Dana and Bunny live vastly different lives: Dana & Gwen struggle to get by, only receiving minimal financial support from James. Dana has memories of her father sitting her down, ordering her not to reveal the truth behind their “secret family.” To all concerned, Raleigh, James’ close friend, is Dana’s father. To prevent being referred to as “illegitimate,” Raleigh goes as far as to sign Dana’s birth certificate.  In Dana’s mind, however, she will always be illegitimate:

In my mind, Chaurisse is his real daughter.  With wives, it only matters who gets there first.  With daughters, the situation is a bit more complicated.

Chaurisse and her mother, Laverne, on the other hand, appreciate all the comforts of a “normal” family. James and Laverne married quite young; Laverne was unable to complete high school due to her pregnancy. Her only existence is that which she shares with James; she never had the opportunity to experience the milestones typical teen girls do.

James and Raleigh do their best to keep the girls apart, to prevent their meeting.  However, 1980s Atlanta, according to James “ain’t nothing but a country town, and everyone knows everybody.” 

I read Silver Sparrow in one sitting, unable to tear myself away from the story of these two girls. The first line: “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist.” This sentence prepares the reader for the drama that is about to ensue.

Silver Sparrow is told by the viewpoints of both girls; the first half in Dana’s voice and the second in Chaurisse’s. The reader can’t help but feel sympathy for Dana; she knows of her father’s “deception,” realizes there is another family who she’s forced to share him with.  the lack of a male role model forces her to make poor decisions, all due to desperation for male attention and love.

On the opposite side, Chaurisse and Laverne are completely clueless; they live years believing their family is a secure and normal one.

The insecurities each of the girls feel is quite compelling: Dana and her mother are attractive but this is not apparent in their feelings about themselves due to the lack of security they feel as a family.  Chaurisse and Laverne, on the other hand, are plain, typical women and have a sense, albeit false, of security in their lives. Each family is missing something, apparent or not.

Since Silver Sparrow is told through the eyes of Dana and Chaurisse; the reader doesn’t get to see the saga in the eyes of the two mothers, or James and Raleigh.  I believe this adds to these unique novel; had it been told by the two wives the reader would experience a completely different story.

Bottom line: Silver Sparrow is a stunning novel with several topics and themes worth discussing, making this the perfect book club choice. Highly recommended.

11 Responses to “Review: Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones”

  1. Felicia

    You’re right, the first line of the book really draws you in. Great story of how betrayal can continue through the years. Dana clearly knew what she was doing but I feel that she wanted what was on the otherside. I was telling the spouse about it and he said back in the day he knew kids like Chaurisse and Dana living “over the track” from one another, although the father wasn’t a bigamist.

    I could go on and on. Good review. I so enjoyed this story!

  2. S. Krishna
    Twitter: skrishna

    I saw you raving about this one on Twitter – I am definitely going to have to read it soon!

  3. Amy

    I absolutely loved this book, like all of Jones’ books it blew me away. I’m so glad to see that you loved it as well. I loved the idea to tell the story from the view of the girls rather than the mothers.

  4. Stephanie

    I have been wanting to read this one since I first heard about it. I have heard great things about the author.

  5. Vasilly
    Twitter: Vasilly

    I’m so glad to hear that you loved this book! Silver Sparrow is a great book with amazing writing.

  6. Kailana

    Sounds good! I think I have seen a couple other reviews of this book, but didn’t pay enough attention at the time.

  7. Anita
    Twitter: anitalovesbooks

    I am really looking forward to reading this one. The premise is so unique and well done, I can’t wait. Great review.

  8. Literate Housewife
    Twitter: lithousewife

    I loved this book and I really need to write my review. I rarely have the opportunity to read a book in one sitting, but I easily could have with this book. Both sides of the story were equally engaging. Great read!