Sing, Unburied, Sing
SHORTLISTED FOR THE WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2018
WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD 2017
ONE OF BARACK OBAMA’S BEST BOOKS OF 2017
SELECTED AS A BOOK OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES, THE NEW STATESMAN, THE FINANCIAL TIMES, THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW, TIME AND THE BBC
‘A must’ Margaret Atwood
‘A searing, urgent read’ Celeste Ng
‘Staggering’ Marlon James
‘Disarmingly beautiful’ Spectator
‘Blazing with power, grief and tenderness’ Financial Times
An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing examines the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power – and limitations – of family bonds.
Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. His mother, Leonie, is in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is black and her children’s father is white. Embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances, she wants to be a better mother, but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use.
When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.
Rich with Ward’s distinctive, lyrical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first century America.
This wrenching new novel by Jesmyn Ward digs deep into the not-buried heart of the American nightmare. A must — Margaret Atwood * Twitter * A novel as blazingly hymn-like as the title suggests — Jon McGregor * New Statesman ‘Books of the Year’ * Beautiful in every sense … Her characters feel wholly true … Long after the end, we continue to worry after them, love them in spite of their faults, and feel their pain * Spectator * Hauntingly lyrical * Mail on Sunday * A powerfully alive novel haunted by ghosts; a road trip where people can go but they can never leave; a visceral and intimate drama that plays out like a grand epic, Sing, Unburied, Sing is staggering — Marlon James, Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2015 The connection between the injustices of the past and the desperation of present are clearly drawn in Sing, Unburied, Sing, a book that charts the lines between the living and the dead, the loving and the broken. 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 Ward is a lyrical, visceral storyteller, one who is as adept at conveying the tenderness of sibling love as the terror and brutality of racist violence * Daily Mail * Blazing with power, grief and tenderness, Jesmyn Ward’s third novel breathes danger into the classic American road trip … What might, in less sure hands, have remained a local tale, makes a searing story of universal power … Ward takes the territory made so familiar by writers such as William Faulkner or Eudora Welty, and reclaims it * Financial Times * Ghosts, the voices of the dying, painful journeys across an unforgiving country. This is Faulkner territory. Ward’s updated version is gruesomely fascinating, especially as she rounds out her story with characters of real-world complexity … Her cool handling of the mythical tropes of journeying and listening to ancestral voices makes this a harrowing, essential novel for our times * The Times * Maybe that’s the miracle here: that ordinary people whose lives have become so easy to classify into categories like rural poor, drug-dependent, products of the criminal justice system, possess the weight and the value of the mythic … Such feats of empathy are difficult, all too often impossible to muster in real life. But they feel genuinely inevitable when offered by a writer of such lyric imagination as Ward * New York Times Book Review * Ward’s prose is characterised by its lyrical beauty: woven throughout are precise, elegant registrations of sensory impression, miniature epiphanies that momentarily lift us from the immediate situation … undeniably well-executed * Sunday Times * It is rich, sometimes unbearably so … The signal characteristic of Ward’s prose is its lyricism … the effect is hypnotic … This, and her ease with vernacular language, puts Ward in fellowship with such forebears as Zora Neale Hurston and William Faulkner … The tone and atmosphere in “Sing, Unburied, Sing” call out, too, to Toni Morrison-particularly “Beloved,” whose most sorrowful revelations are echoed in the climax of “Sing” * New Yorker * Combines aspects of the American road novel and the ghost story with an exploration of the long aftershocks of a hurricane — Notable Books of the Year * New York Times Book Review * Most effective as a poetic critique of US history … A brooding, pained meditation on the proposition, spelled out by Colson Whitehead in The Underground Railroad, that “America is a ghost in the darkness”‘ * Guardian * The heir to Faulkner * Time * However eternal its concerns, “Sing, Unburied, Sing” is perfectly poised for the moment * New York Times * One of the most powerfully poetic writers in the country … Readers may be reminded of the trapped spirits in George Saunders’s recent novel, “Lincoln in the Bardo,” but Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” is a more direct antecedent * Washington Post * Speaks to maintaining hope in the face of one’s plight, and the true strength (and fragility) of familial bonds * Buzzfeed * An unforgettable novel about race, love and history * Elle * Sing, Unburied, Sing is a road novel turned on its head, and a family story with its feet to the fire. 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’ A searing, urgent read for anyone who thinks the shadows of slavery and Jim Crow have passed, and anyone who assumes the ghosts of the past are easy to placate. It’s hard to imagine a more necessary book for this political era — Celeste Ng, author of ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ and ‘Everything I Never Told You’ In prose that is simultaneously luminous and achingly honest, Ward captures moments of beauty, tenderness, and resilience against a bleak landscape of crushing poverty, racism, addiction, and incarceration * MacArthur Foundation * If Sing, Unburied, Sing is proof of anything, it’s that when it comes to spinning poetic tales of love and family, and the social metastasis that often takes place but goes unspoken of in marginalized communities-let alone the black American South-Jesmyn Ward is, by far, the best doing it today. Another masterpiece — Jason Reynolds, author of ‘Ghost’ Staggering … A furious brew with hints of Toni Morrison and Homer’s ‘The Odyssey’ * Boston Globe * The terrible beauty of life along the nation’s lower margins is summoned in this bold, bright, and sharp-eyed road novel … As with the best and most meaningful American fiction these days, old truths are recast here in new realities rife with both peril and promise * Kirkus * Her lyrical prose takes on, alternately, the tones of a road novel and a ghost story … [Sing, Unburied, Sing] establishes Ward as one of the most poetic writers in the conversation about America’s unfinished business in the black South * Atlantic * [A] tour de force … Ward is an attentive and precise writer who dazzles with natural and supernatural observations and lyrical details … she continues telling stories we need to hear with rare clarity and power * O, the Oprah Magazine * Electric … a harrowing panorama of the rural South * L.A. Review of Books * A tale that shimmers * Mother Jones * Ward’s tale is an emotional, political and spiritual powerhouse that unblinkingly underlines America’s heinous treatment of black people – from slavery to the present day … while it’s a book filled with savagery, there is also tenderness, love and hope. You can feel the energy buzzing between its covers * Emerald Street * If you only read a single novel this month, make it Jesmyn Ward’s utterly brilliant Sing, Unburied, Sing * Vogue * The book’s Southern gothic aura recalls the dense, head-spinning prose of William Faulkner or Flannery O’Connor. But the voice is entirely Ward’s own, a voluptuous magical realism that takes root in the darkest corners of human behavior … Ward, whose Salvage the Bones won a National Book Award, has emerged as one of the most searing and singularly gifted writers working today * Entertainment Weekly * Gorgeous … Always clear-eyed, Ward knows history is a nightmare. But she insists all the same that we might yet awaken and sing * Chicago Tribune * In this lush and lonely novel, Ward lets the dead sing. It’s a kind of burial * NPR * Very beautiful * Vox * Poetic and powerful * Pride Magazine * An American road novel transplanted to 21st century rural America, looking at race, belonging and how the past can never be left behind. Utterly captivating, this is a special book that will make your heart and soul ache * Stylist * It should come as no surprise that the novel has garnered comparisons to Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Echoes of Faulkner nestle amongst Ward’s pages too. … Ward’s prose drips with poetry, even at the novel’s darkest moments * The White Review * This is the most grittily realistic book I’ve read in a while – it just happens to be a ghost story. Somehow, despite its fantastical content, Sing, Unburied, Sing feels distinctly believable … But it’s the love that shines incandescently from the pages here, blasting through all the oppressive threat and tension and lighting the novel up from within * Shiny New Books * Recommended by the likes of Margaret Atwood and Marlon James, Jesmyn Ward’s latest novel is one of Autumn’s must-reads … Part road novel, part ghost story, this is a powerful exploration of race and the way the past * Anothermag * The civil liberty struggles faced by Americans today, and the country’s history are reflected in Ward’s affecting prose * The i * Themes of drug addiction and child abuse feature in this powerful tale, with ghostly figures from the past returning to admonish Leonie for the choices she has made in her life … impressive * Bristol Post * The cult read: Sing, Unburied, Sing won the National Book Award this year. It feels particularly timely, centring on a family road trip through a fractured Mississippi * Sunday Times Style * Ward’s third book set in the fictional town of Bois Sauvage, based on her hometown of DeLisle, Miss., conjures the same raw emotion of her previous works, like the Hurricane Katrina novel Salvage the Bones. But this time, a sense of magical realism deepens the ghostly sense of the past reaching out to touch – or even strangle – the present. Ward’s novel is a true triple threat, expert in prose, human observation and social commentary * Time Magazine * Full of haunted, lyrical beauty — Summer Reading Guide * Guardian Australia * Sing, Unburied, Sing grapples with the long shadow cast by slavery in the American South – not just the cycles of inherited trauma and alienation, but the mass incarceration of black men today … In this novel Ward shows again that she can place harsh truths about America’s racial problems within a gorgeous, lyrical tale * Prospect * Jesmyn Ward is an important new voice of the American South – one developing, perhaps, into the twenty-first-century’s answer to William Faulkner. Fiercely partisan yet unillusioned, she displays an impressive understand of politics and idiom. But perhaps most striking is her sustained and clear-eyed attention to people who, when noticed at all, are more usually consigned to a novel’s periphery. Here they take centre stage and are depicted with the kind of piercing clarity born of love — Kate Webb * Times Literary Supplement *
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