With the opening line of Silver Sparrow, “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist,” author Tayari Jones unveils a breathtaking story about a man’s deception, a family’s complicity, and two teenage girls caught in the middle.
Set in a middle-class neighborhood in Atlanta in the 1980s, the novel revolves around James Witherspoon’s two families—the public one and the secret one. When the daughters from each family meet and form a friendship, only one of them knows they are sisters. It is a relationship destined to explode when secrets are revealed and illusions shattered. As Jones explores the backstories of her rich yet flawed characters—the father, the two mothers, the grandmother, and the uncle—she also reveals the joy, as well as the destruction, they brought to one another’s lives.
Pages: 352 (Hardcover)
Rating: 7 out of 10
Source: Checked out from the library
A few weeks ago, I got an email about the next meeting of the Professor and Partner book club. I was excited to find out that I would be in town and made plans to attend. I had not heard about Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones, but was intrigued by the description. Since things were so crazy here in MA with trying to prepare for the upcoming baby arrival and nesting while waiting to get back into our house, I was not sure how much time I would have to read. Fortunately, things aligned well. The book was available from the library and the story went quickly, so I was able to finish over a long weekend.
Overall, I was glad to be able to be lost in the story. However, I found it very disturbing and sad. I wanted more positive resolution. It was especially hard to read about the unhealthy sexual relationships of many of the characters. At the book club meeting last night, we also discussed how sad it was that both daughters were in unhealthy sexual relationships. the patterns established by their mother's were being repeated in the girls. I also had trouble with the father who did not seem to be a very good catch, but had two great women who cared deeply for him.
I felt the most bad for the daughters. Dana was constantly trying to get her father's full attention and had orders to stay away from her father's other family. However, it seemed that she was always stuck with her dad's leftovers. Chaurisse had no idea that her father had another family, but wanted a friend. When she got a friend, it ended up destroying her family. By the end of the book, I felt sad that the two sisters had not been able to reconcile. With all the complications that occurred between their moms and their dad, it seemed like too great a divide to cross.
I was also confused by Raleigh's character. He seemed to have a lot of integrity, but ended up following and supporting James. I wanted either one of the women to end up with Raleigh or him to find a good partner and leave James behind.
Overall, I think the story is about two girls trying to find their way in a messy world. The odds were stacked against both of them. However, I was still hoping for a more positive outcome.