Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward is a majestic novel with devastating impact.
Set in modern-day Mississippi, this is the story of three generations of black Southerners—the ever-present racism that imprisons them, the dire circumstances that plague them and the ghosts that haunt them.
While there are many voices in this novel, the central ones belong to Leonie, a drug-addicted young mother, and her thirteen-year-old son, JoJo, who live on a farm with Leonie’s parents and toddler daughter, Kayla.
This is part road trip novel when Michael, the white father of JoJo and Kayla, is released from prison and Leonie takes her children and best friend to get him. “I watch the road roll out before me like a big black ribbon.”
This is part love story, both the muted romance of Leonie’s parents and the “loving across color lines” of Michael and Leonie. “He saw me. Saw past skin the color of unmilked coffee, eyes black, lips the color plums, and saw me.”
This is also a ghost story for the spirits of Leonie’s brother, who died in a suspicious hunting accident, and Richie, a young boy who was incarcerated with Leonie’s father, appear throughout the book.
Ward’s treatment of the supernatural pulls the afterlife close to this one in the same way that her lyrical writing style pulls her prose close to poetry.
Best paired with meat, onions and garlic, bell pepper, and celery cooked in butter. A glass of wine in a mason jar and red velvet birthday cake for dessert.