Silver Sparrow

When I finished Tayari Jones’s most recent novel, An American Marriage, I was so impressed that I immediately put her previous book, Silver Sparrow, on hold at the library. It, too, is a very good book about people caught up in an impossible situation that is mostly not of their own making. Their situation leads them to make choices that are at times infuriating, but are almost always understandable. I love this kind of complexity.

The story centers on two young black women from Atlanta, sisters, although only one of them knows it. Their father, James, is a bigamist, as we learn in the opening line of the novel. Dana, who narrates the first half of the novel, is the daughter from his secret marriage. She’s smart and ambitious, but she often feel that she gets nothing but the crumbs left over from his other daughter, Chaurisse.

Chaurisse, who takes over the narration in the second half of the book, has her own insecurities. She may be the daughter of two successful entrepreneurs (her father owns a limo business and her mother a beauty salon), but she feels homely and gets left out of most of the social activities around her. She sees Dana as a “silver girl,” shiny and beautiful, and envies them for it.

The book delves into the characters’ family histories, exploring how James ended up married to two women and the fallout of that choice. At times, the layers piled up a bit too much, with timelines merging together in a confusing way, but this is a minor issue. The emotional momentum of the story is always clear. The characterization is where this novel really shines. In American Marriage, the elements of plot, character, and writing come together more seamlessly. But this was still extremely enjoyable.

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8 Responses to Silver Sparrow

  1. Lisa says:

    I’ve read nothing but praise for An American Marriage, which I have on hold at the library. But I hadn’t looked for her other books, and I’m pleasantly surprised to see how many the library has, including this one.

  2. indiefan20 says:

    I haven’t read “An American Marriage,” but my mom has and she says it’s the best book she’s read this year. I’ve been meaning to read it but I have like a million books on my to-read list! After I read that one I might be interested in this one too, I love it when books are really character-driven. Weirdly enough, I actually knew someone whose father was a bigamist. :/

  3. Anne Simonot says:

    I have Silver Sparrow on my Kindle— and I want to read it before An American Marriage. Soon!

  4. I was drawn to this book as soon as it was published because my father also had another family. I just recently got around to reading it, and it really struck home in many ways even though my story was about white people in rural Maine. Jones really gets at universal feelings and the complications of relationships. I then read American Marriage, which I also loved. She’s definitely a new favorite author!

    • Teresa says:

      Yes, even though I haven’t had any experiences like those in either book, I could absolutely understand why her characters felt and acted as they did.

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