Sing Unburied Sing ~ 
by Jesmyn West

I couldn’t help but notice the similarity to Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying in which a poor white Mississippi family has to transport mom’s dead body quite a distance in order to bury her.  The tale is told by several 1st person narrators, including Mom (Abby) each with his own problems.  Then I checked and the similarity to Sing Unburied Sing has NOT gone unremarked on by the critics and bloggers.  (I appreciate when that happens as I feel vindicated in  some way.)   

Sing Unburied Sing
by Jesmyn West
2017 / 308 pages
read by Kevin Harrison/Chris Chalk and others
rating – 8.5 – contemporary fiction

But that’s certainly not all there is – Sing Unburied Sing has, as the title implies, ghosts hovering over the family.  This is kind of reminiscent of Toni Morrison’s Beloved.  But still,  although it took me half the book to see it,  there’s still more.   Lincoln in the Bardo by George Sanders comes to  mind 

The setting of the South,  including a very present historical background,  is very similar in the these books but the main family in Sing Unburied Sing is generally younger, black and definitely dealing with  21st century issues.  Drugs and racial tensions are involved in addition to   Some of the characters see ghosts or hear voices.  Mom is dying of cancer,  but it’s two younger women and their children who are traveling to pick up the white father of two of the children as he is released from a 3-year stay in prison.  

The reader has to finish the book to realize what brought all this on, similar to Beloved, but it’s definitely worth it. That’s where it all comes together and where the real action is.

There are some intense scenes like the one with the police officer or the one where Michael brings his family to visit his parents.  These are wonderfully well done – riveting.  The powerful scenes toward the end seemed to be a bit more ambitious than West was quite able to pull off successfully.  

Still,  I think this is one of those books which I would have enjoyed more had I read it. The readers slowed the pace down and they used too much  emotion, too much quiet drama and I don’t think it’s supposed to be a dramatic book. Rather there’s a sense of the melancholy to it which is powerful in itself, but lost in the narration. 


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2 Responses to Sing Unburied Sing ~ 
by Jesmyn West

  1. Carmen says:

    Great review, Becky. I bought this on ebook and audio as well. Have yet to find time to read it. Good to know it’s better read than listened to.


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