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Monday, July 4, 2011

The Silver Sparrow

The Silver Sparrow
Tayari Jones
Algonquin, 2011

James Witherspoon is a bigamist. He divides his time between his legal wife and daughter (Chaurisse) and his second wife and daughter (Dana.) Dana and her mother both know about James' other daughter, but Chaurisse and her mother are blissfully unaware of James's secret family. Dana and her mother live in the shadows – they must be careful everywhere they go to not run into Chaurisse and her mother. It even affects where Dana goes to school. But this doesn’t stop the two of them from spying on Chaurisse and her mother every chance they get in order to compare what James gives his first family and what James provides for his second.

When Dana accidently meets her half-sister, the two of them become friends. For Dana, it's an irresistible opportunity to secretly see how much better her father’s “real” family lives. She sees that they have a nicer house, better clothes, and more time with James. For Chaurisse, Dana is a glamorous friend--a "silver girl" possessing all the style, popularity, and long pretty hair that Chaurisse thinks would make her happy. But this friendship is doomed from the start. As the two girls spend more time together, the secret is bound to come out, and when it does, Dana and her mother discover that they have much more to lose than they thought.

This fascinating look at the dark side of bigamy had me glued to the book until the end. It is set in the 1980s, and the author includes many details about the fashion, politics, and attitudes of the time period, which helped to put the situation in perspective. I found Dana’s and Chaurisse’s voices to be authentic and realistic – and very sad. This book doesn’t wrap everything up neatly, but that’s what makes it hard to stop thinking about afterward. It will make you think about the choices people make and how these choices have far-reaching consequences for others beside ourselves.


Other books by this author:
Leaving Atlanta (2002)
The Untelling (2005)

Other novels you may enjoy:

Falling in Love with Natassia by Anna Mondardo (2006)
Born to college students unprepared for parenthood, Natassia is raised by her father's parents, but the end of Natassia's teenage romance and the resulting emotional collapse forces all of the adults in her life to re-evaluate their relationships.

Shanghai Girls by Lisa See (2009)
Forced to leave Shanghai when their father sells them to California suitors, sisters May and Pearl struggle to adapt to life in 1930s Los Angeles while still bound to old customs, as they face discrimination and confront a life-altering secret.

Sea Escape by Lynn Reeves Griffin (2010)
Balancing her roles as a wife and mother with the responsibility of caring for a parent who is recovering from a stroke, Laura reads love letters exchanged by her parents during the 1950s and tumultuous Vietnam War period, a correspondence that reveals unexpected truths.

1 comment:

  1. This sounds interesting and like something I would read. Thanks for the review!