2017 National Book Award for Fiction
This novel will hook you in and pull you along through a spellbinding, heartbreaking journey into modern-day, impoverished Mississippi. The story follows Jojo, a young multiracial boy growing up primarily with his grandparents due to his mother's addiction problems and his father's jail sentence. It explores the bonds of family, the weight of history, and includes a touch of magical realism that will hang heavy on your heart after finishing. Recommended By Tehya R., Powells.com
Set in the rural Mississippi Gulf, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a ghost story, haunted by the lingering effects of generational poverty, the folk magic of the South, and the specters of America’s violent past, present, and future. Lush, layered, and richly imagined, Ward’s latest novel is a heartbreaking wonder. Recommended By Rhianna W., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
A searing and profound Southern odyssey by National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward.
In Jesmyn Ward’s first novel since her National Book Award–winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America. Drawing on Morrison and Faulkner, The Odyssey and the Old Testament, Ward gives us an epochal story, a journey through Mississippi’s past and present that is both an intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. Ward is a major American writer, multiply awarded and universally lauded, and in Sing, Unburied, Sing she is at the height of her powers.
Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise.
Sing, Unburied, Sing grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations, of the bonds of family. Rich with Ward’s distinctive, musical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an essential contribution to American literature.
"Lyric and devastating, Ward's unforgettable characters straddle past and present in this spellbinding return to the rural Mississippi of her first book. You'll never read anything like it." Ayana Mathis, author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
"I am a huge fan of Jesmyn Ward’s work, and this book proves that she is one of the most important writers in America today." Ann Patchett, author of Commonwealth
"Lyrical yet tough, Ward’s distilled language effectively captures the hard lives, fraught relationships, and spiritual depth of her characters." Library Journal (Starred Review)
"Ward tells the story of three generations of a struggling Mississippi family in this astonishing novel ... Their stories are deeply affecting, in no small part because of Ward’s brilliant writing and compassionate eye." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Ward's execution is anything but [familiar]; her first foray into magical realism is downright luminous." Entertainment Weekly
"Ward’s writing throbs with life, grief, and love, and this book is the kind that makes you ache to return to it."
"Ward unearths layers of history in gorgeous textured language, ending with an unearthly chord." BBC
"As long as America has novelists such as Jesmyn Ward, it will not lose its soul." Minneapolis Star Tribune
About the Author
Jesmyn Ward received her MFA from the University of Michigan and was a recipient of a Stegner Fellowship, a John and Renee Grisham Writers Residency, and the Strauss Living Prize. She is currently an associate professor of creative writing at Tulane University and author of the novels Where the Line Bleeds and Salvage the Bones, which won the 2011 National Book Award. She is also the author of the memoir, Men We Reaped, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize and the Media for a Just Society Award. She lives in Mississippi.
Jesmyn Ward on PowellsBooks.Blog
Jesmyn Ward’s new novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing
, is a taut triumph, rich with the poetry and political nuance for which her award-winning fiction is known...