Leonie’s husband Michael is getting out of jail and she thinks it would be a great idea to meet him with their kids Jojo and Kayla, along with her fellow bartender (and drug addict) Misty. Her kids are being pretty much raised by Leonie’s parents Mam and Pop. Her in-laws won’t have anything to do with her, being that Big Joseph is, well, white and racist. Leonie’s story alternates with Jojo, a 13-year-old kid who is very protective of his little sister and has been insulated from the worst of Leonie’s life by his grandparents. The third voice in the story is Richie, a ghost from Pop’s past that is unable to leave the Earth. And there’s another ghost too – Leonie is having visions of her dead brother River, killed by her husband’s cousin. Everything they say about Sing, Unburied, Sing is true. The writing is just beautiful and it’s no coincidence that Bois Sauvage, the setting, is Ward’s Yoknapatawpha – Ward’s third novel is truly William Faulkner meets Toni Morrison.— Daniel Goldin
September 2017 Indie Next List
“Sing, Unburied, Sing is a dark and gorgeous song of love and heartbreak, haunting and tragic and disorienting in its timelessness. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill anchors Ward's tale to Mississippi today, which is almost indistinguishable from its notorious yesterday, a present and past (ironically) made more alive in the novel by ghosts and where everyone suffers from the cancers of buried sins. On Jojo's 13th birthday, while Mam is dying and Pop struggles to keep everyone safe, Leonie plans a road trip to the prison to pick up Michael, Jojo and baby Kayla's father. It's The Odyssey meets the Delta blues meets William Faulkner and Toni Morrison and some ineffable something that is Jesmyn Ward's own magic.”
— Sara Hinckley (E), Hudson Booksellers, Marietta, GA
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.