15 Jan 2013

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

As discussed, I am in hold jail because I have an uncontrollably itchy-reserve finger. I request more books than I can physically read; this is the ultimate problem. Things get worse when, oh, I have-to-read-100-non-fiction books. I renew madly, holding out this bit of hope that I’ll be able to read everything before due dates, but when my bookshelves physically runneth over, I am obviously just kidding myself. It hurts my spirit to have to admit defeat and return unread books. It hurts my spine to think about lugging books to and from the library if I’m not even going to read them.

On New Year’s Day, I had all the reading options in the world and I decided to start one of those Itchy-Reserve-Finger, Renewed-Five-Times, Almost-Overdue books so that sense of self-righteous achievement could propel me into 2013. Bonus points of it is

That book was Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, and while I may have begun this book with all sorts of righteous intentions, about a quarter of the way through I was just plain enjoying myself. And when the point of view did a sudden switch, halfway through? I forgot all of my good intentions and just sped through.

Dana knows her father, but he lives with his other family – his real wife and daughter. Dana and her mother keep the secret, finding an uneasy satisfaction in their position as the Ones Who Know, able to “surveil” their counterparts, observing and judging, while the favored family is none the wiser. But while Dana can watch with her mother, from a distance, as soon as daddy’s real daughter – Chaurisse – shows up at a school, a program, a job, then Dana must defer to avoid any unsupervised interactions. Once Dana is at the end of high school, the small injustices of being the second-class family, the obvious¬† daddy issues, the instability of her future start to pile up, leaving Dana unsure of her family, her future, and herself.

Like I said – I was totally into Dana’s story, woven with family history, her mother’s courtship, her first loves, her friendships, and then I turned a page and BAM there was Chaurisse – privileged, unknowing Chaurisse who has a mother and a father and a secret family. It would have been interesting enough just to hear her side of the story, the flip side of the coin, but it doesn’t take too long to realize that these two families are heading towards each other much more quickly than anyone – character or reader – would expect.

With two teen narrators, this qualifies as one of my favorite invented adult lit sub-genres РThe Secretly YA Novel. Add to that  a satisfying, generation-spanning family drama with a bit of literary heft, and oh, it reads like a dream? A nice choice for a new year.

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