This book is amazing. I love this book. I am so glad I stumbled across this looking for something to fill up my bingo card.
Magical realism is one of my absolute favorite story telling devices when it is done well, and this is such a perfect example of what it can really do.
This is the story of Jojo’s family. Jojo is a thirteen-year-old mixed race boy growing up in the current day South and straddling that realm in between boyhood and adulthood. He lives with his Grandparents, Mam and Pop, his toddler sister Kayla and his mom, Leonie. Mam is in the late stages of cancer and Leonie drifts in and out of the picture, depending on how much of a hold her drug addiction has on her at the moment. Jojo’s dad, who’s White is currently incarcerated at Parchman. This is where Pop was also incarcerated when he was a young man. This is also the rather notorious prison John Lewis served time in during the Civil Rights movement. This last part isn’t 100% relevant to the plot, but knowing that it is a notoriously brutal place with a long history is.
His biological family is rounded out by his dad’s White, racist parents who don’t acknowledge his or his sister’s existence and his dead uncle Given. So, while Pop, is an amazing caregiver and role model for Jojo, as was Mam before she got sick, the influences in his life are still rather complicated and some of the messages are pretty mixed.
The main plot revolves mainly around his mom getting a call from his dad about his release and Leonie deciding to take the kids with her on the 24-hour drive to pick him up.
This is also very much a story about Jojo and Pop. Everyone everywhere wishes they could have a Pop. The luckiest of us get one. It’s also Leonie’s story, and I loved Leonie’s story because it’s one we don’t hear very often, not in this way.
I don’t want to say anything more about the plot. This is about all I knew going in and I’m glad.
At first I wondered if this book would be a little darker than I could handle at the moment; but oh man, it isn’t dark, not in the way that connotation normally means, anyway. This is actually an optimistic story about how the simple things in life: love, family, responsibility, faith, even death are actually way more complicated and difficult than we often acknowledge. This is a book all about life’s grey areas and it is very loving towards them.
Sing, Unburied, Sing won the National Book Award and was a finalist for finalist for the Kirkus Prize, Andrew Carnegie Medal, and the Aspen Words Literary Prize. It deserves every single honor.
This is filling my Award Winner spot on my CBR10 Bingo Card.