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Sing, Unburied, Sing

(Bois Sauvage #2)

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  124,157 ratings  ·  14,774 reviews
In Jesmyn Ward’s first novel since her National Book Award–winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America. Drawing on Morrison and Faulkner, The Odyssey and the Old Testament, Ward gives us an epochal story, a journey through Mississippi’s past and present that is both an intimate portrait o ...more
Hardcover, 285 pages
Published September 5th 2017 by Scribner
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Sonia It refers to the ghosts the children are able to hear and see as birds on the trees, singing their song of grief, the spirits of those who died due to…moreIt refers to the ghosts the children are able to hear and see as birds on the trees, singing their song of grief, the spirits of those who died due to a violent act, those (mostly black people) who were killed, or hurt, abused, mistreated and left unburied, without justice.(less)
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Heather Nicole I thought it was Given talking to Richie telling him that Mam was not his mother because Richie was saying, "I want you to be my mama." …moreI thought it was Given talking to Richie telling him that Mam was not his mother because Richie was saying, "I want you to be my mama." (less)

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Average rating 4.02  · 
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 ·  124,157 ratings  ·  14,774 reviews

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2 stars--blame it on the ghosts

It was the ghosts, folks. It was the ghosts that made me do it. They made me change my mind and go with 2 stars instead of my original 3. It’s just that they were such a big part of this book. If they had been smaller and kept their mouths shut, I would be handing you 3 stars. I wanted to be closer in stars to my gushing friends, but that just didn’t happen. I didn’t like this book, period. And of course, I have a Complaint Board to prove it.

I did like a few thing
Emily May
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, modern-lit, 2017
"I washed my hands every day, Jojo. But that damn blood ain't never come out."

Such a stunning book.

Sing, Unburied, Sing captivated me almost instantly. THIS is how character-driven family dramas should be, and there's nothing quite like a nice bit of dysfunctional family drama to keep me turning pages. But I don't want to diminish the strength of this novel. It is a character study of a contemporary African-American family in Mississippi, but it is also a darkly beautiful story about ghosts.
Jun 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written. So many layers. I don't know that there is another writer who captures the complexities of the south and the legacies of racism as well as Ward. This is a brilliant novel. But also, I did want the characters and the overall narrative to be more fully developed, or perhaps more multi-dimensional. An absolute must-read, regardless. ...more
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: free-from-work
looking for great books to read during black history month...and the other eleven months? i'm going to float some of my favorites throughout the month, and i hope they will find new readers!

Sometimes, the world don’t give you what you need, no matter how hard you look. Sometimes, it withholds.

so, i’ve been meaning to review this for a couple of weeks now, and it’s a real challenge, because there is no universe in which i feel qualified to convey how damn good this book is. up there it’s compared
Felice Laverne
Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing is true Southern Gothicism at its finest. It is a novel that I’ve been waiting a very long time to read, and I mean that both literally and figuratively. There is so much within these pages—so much angst, so much wonder and so much sorrow—that I am still grappling with it even now. And that’s a wonderful thing, the best feeling and the most lasting impression a writer can ever bestow on their reader.

I read, before reading this novel, that Jesmyn Ward had recent
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a profoundly moving novel that tears your heart apart from the hugely gifted Jesmyn Ward. It is Southern Gothic at its most impressive, set in the burning heat of the Mississippi Gulf coast. It speaks of neglectful parents, ill equipped to bring up their mixed race children. The black Leonie is a drug addict and troubled woman, moving in and out of 13 year old JoJo and his toddler sister, Kayla's lives as they reside with their beloved grandparents, Mam and Pop, who provide safety, secur ...more
3.5 stars

Well, this was certainly an intense, beautifully written novel. I have to admit I went into this with some very high expectations, but also with a bit of reluctance. I have seen much praise lavished on this book, and deservedly so despite my lower ranking compared with many of my trusted and much-respected Goodreads friends. I also had prior knowledge of a fairly large dose of magical realism which can sometimes muddy my enjoyment of a book. However, I took the plunge, grabbed a copy, a
Elyse Walters
May 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I listened to the audiobook of "Salvage the Bones", a couple of months ago. I was so engrossed, it was almost hard to distinguish one talent from the other: the narrators voice or the authors writing. Jesmyn Ward was a new author to me.
I remember I cringed at times - and thought the language was beautiful.

.....many other reviews came before me - excellent ones describing the plot and sharing about the characters. I read Michael's review which had me running to find this book on Net
Larry H
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Profound, poetic, and at times painful to read, Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing is searing, truly a soaring literary achievement that I won't stop thinking about anytime soon.

Jojo is 13 years old, on the cusp of manhood but in some ways still very much a child, longing for the security and comfort of an easier time in his life. He and his younger sister Kayla (short for Michaela) have essentially been raised by their grandparents, since their mother Leonie is often absent, either physically
Feb 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Adult responsibility should not consume the life of a thirteen year old. Jojo's family lives in poverty along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Once Jojo had a mama (Leonie) who attended to him and watched TV with him. He stopped calling her mama after she started snorting crushed pills. His father, Michael, is jailed in Parchman farm, The Mississippi State Penitentiary.

Jojo has a dual role as surrogate parent to toddler sister Kayla and as future head of household. He is asked to help grandfather
Hannah Greendale
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

Heartbreak prevails, the past materializes in haunting forms, and Jesmyn Ward's prose sings in this brutal coming-of-age set in Mississippi.
Angela M (On a little break)

I almost always read just before going to sleep, and occasionally I wake up thinking about the characters, feeling like I have to get back to the book because I just have to know what's going to happen to them . This is what happened with this story. To me that's so telling about how Jesmyn Ward creates characters that are so real that you worry about them as if they were people you know, children that you want to be safe. That's just one of the strengths of her writing - the intimacy that we as
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
4 Stars.

Beautiful, Lyrical and Poetic. Haunting and completely Heart-Wrenching. And quite honestly, a book that ripped me apart.

“Sing Unburied Sing” is a character driven novel about a poverty stricken family living in Mississippi, where race discrimination runs rampant. Jojo is a thirteen year old biracial boy who has taken care of his three year old sister Kayla, since her birth, even though live with their Mam and Pop. Mam has shown Jojo what love and kindness are, while Pop has taught Joj
Lindsay - Traveling Sisters Book Reviews
2.5 stars. This book simply wasn’t a good fit for me.

Magical realism and fantasy are not themes that I connect with or generally enjoy reading. I hadn’t realized those aspects were such a large part of this story and I found them confusing and highly distracting. I think this came down to me not being the target market for this book.

There were some unforgettable characters within this tragic and unsettling story. Pre-teenaged Jojo stole my heart as he took on the parental role to his toddler
Aug 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
5 stars doesn't feel like enough.

How to describe a book that is both heartbreaking, sad, raw and yet hopeful all at the same time? That really is the question. I'll start by saying that I found Ward's writing to be haunting, beautiful and poetic. I loved the imagery she provoked. I felt like I was on the farm with the family and then in the car on the journey to pick up Michael at the Penitentiary. I was right there in the barn when the goat was being slaughtered and also there when the police
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“It Ain’t Changed None”

Those old enough to remember the film Easy Rider will know the fate of its protagonists, played by Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. They dared bring their long hair and loose morals into The Deep South almost 50 years ago. They both end up dead, shot off their motorcycles by the local rednecks for being different. The point of the film? Although Fonda and Hopper are white folk - and this was the target audience - this is what black people experience on a daily basis in a soc
Emily (Books with Emily Fox)
It's not you, it's me.

I couldn't get into this book. I wanted to love it, truly but I'm having a hard time reviewing it.

It's a beautifully written book about poverty, family, racism, hope and struggle.

Just... not for me.
Diane S ☔
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
4.5 If you have read this author before, you pretty much know to expect a grittiness, a no holds barred reality, and that is exactly what happens in this novel. Poverty, racism, a belief in the other world to make things bearable, healing with herbs and incantations, drugs, and in this book spirits, ghosts. Mam and Pop are amazing characters who provide love and support to their two mixed race grandchildren, JoJo and Kayla. The children's parents Leone and Michael, both hooked on drugs, Michael ...more
Rating 4.5

What a powerful, beautiful, heartbreaking story that details love, hate, sadness, death, drugs, poverty, and racism. There is so much packed into this one and my thoughts are still with these characters. I thought this was a perfect example of Southern Gothic literature. Defined as follows:

Southern Gothic literature include deeply flawed, disturbing or eccentric characters who may or may not dabble in hoodoo, ambivalent gender roles, decayed or derelict settings, grotesque situations,
Aug 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I've had Salvage The Bones on my TBR list for ages and somehow have never gotten to it. So, I was pleased to get an advance copy of Sing, Unburied, Sing and finally get to read something by Jesamyn Ward. Wow, she can write! Her descriptions take you right to the time and place. It's like the characters are real people, they are that three dimensional. It's a very sad book. A thirteen year old biracial boy is forced to grow up before his time. And unfortunately, it's a story that takes place all ...more
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I would give this book a 4.5 rating.
Beautifully written, haunting, very sad. In this story we have biracial children being taken care of by the grandparents, a drug addicted mother, their father in prison, a grandmother who is dying, and a loving grandfather. Oh, and we also have ghosts, yes, quite a few ghosts.
Jojo one of a few different narrators of this book is just bogged down with the responsibility of his little sister Kayla..he is the only constant for her, he and his grandfather really p
I don't know if I even feel up to the task of writing a review for this amazing novel. I started this one yesterday and I could not put this book down.

Sing Unburied Sing is stunning, gripping, haunting, beautifully written, compelling and filled with complex characters. I'm usually put off by magical realism in books but I think it only added to the poetic and searing storytelling.

Highly Recommended!

Read for the African-American Historical Fiction Bookclub.

2018 Badass Books Challenge: A book b
Magical realism collides with southern gothic reality

There's been a hum of excitement on Goodreads regarding this book, which has won a throng of awards. Too impatient to wait for my pathetic lil french/english local library to get it - I just bought my own copy.

High expectations are dangerous, but not for me, in this particular case. Jesmyn Ward delivers in this book a raw, impossibly real cast of characters, with a story that is simple (junkie mom packs her kids in the car to pick up loser dad
Oct 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
A snapshot of a family in crisis, Sing, Unburied, Sing reckons with the legacy of racial injustice in the Deep South. The novel follows thirteen-year-old Jojo and his mother Leonie as the pair drives north to retrieve Jojo's white father from prison upon his release. On the road, Leonie struggles to care for Jojo's younger sister, Kayla, forcing Jojo to help care for her; Jojo resents his mother's inability to parent her children, as well as her addiction to cocaine. Both mother and son also are ...more
Brenda ~Traveling Sisters Book Reviews
Traveling Sister Group Read with Norma, Lindsay, Susanne and JanB.

Sing, Unburied, Sing was a Traveling Sister Group read and we had some mixed feelings on this one and it brought out a lot of different emotions from us. We had some interesting group discussions with this one. Some of us really connected to the story on a very emotional level and some of us could not connect at all to the story. For me, I struggled with connecting with the story.

Jesmyn Ward takes on some sad and ugly truths here
I have waited almost a month, and I still don't magically have a review of this book ready to go.

I just don't know!!!

Honestly, while I can tell you that this book is in fact Remarkable and Unique and One of a Kind and every other positive adjective all the blurbs and reviews and write-ups have claimed it to be, it wasn't a perfect read for me. It dragged in the middle, if I'm honest. I just wasn't consistently into it. (This is what happens to me ALWAYS with multiple perspectives. I can basicall
Peter (catching up)
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Sing, Unburied, Sing is an exposure of aspects in American society that are uncomfortable to acknowledge but are told with a pointed, honest and heartfelt sense of purpose. Jesmyn Ward airs these issues in an unabbreviated depiction of poverty, drug abuse, and racial discrimination in the USA’s Southern States.

The narration is told alternately through the eyes of 13-year-old JoJo and his 31-year-old mother Leonie in vivid detail and sense of surroundings. JoJo is the son of a black mother
Jenny (Reading Envy)
ETA: 11/2019 - Rereading this for an at-work Jesmyn Ward book club. She's coming to campus in February so we're meeting monthly to discuss a different work, hosted by the library and English department. It's amazing how much of it is still so vivid in my mind.

Original review from 2017:

I finished this novel a week ago and haven't been able to write about it. It is so good, I just don't know how to do it justice. If I list the ingredients of the novel for you, the characters and events, it wouldn'
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
This story is told from several different viewpoints but the most resounding voice was a young boy named Jojo. Jojo lives with his Mam and Pop and younger sister Kayla. His mom Leonie pops in and out of the house when she isn't drugged out of her mind. Jojo looks at life through an old man's eyes even though he hasn't even reached puberty. (Not literally for you trolls)..but this kid has seen more than most of us even have nightmares about.
His father is about to be released from the state penit
OH BOY, what to say - Emotional....Sad....Disheartening....Infuriating....AND a Great Read!

SING UNBURIED SING is a multi-layered, beautifully written story about a dysfunctional family who live on a farm near the Gulf of Mississippi.

THE CHARACTERS are very well-defined and the self-absorbed drug addicted Leonie who "ain't got the mothering instinct" Michael the father....who "ain't" much better....undependable....even when he's not in prison.

POOR MAM, she's bedridde

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Jesmyn Ward is the author of Where the Line Bleeds, Salvage the Bones, and Men We Reaped. She is a former Stegner Fellow (Stanford University) and Grisham Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi. She is an associate professor of Creative Writing at Tulane University.

Her work has appeared in BOMB, A Public Space and The Oxford American.

Other books in the series

Bois Sauvage (3 books)
  • Salvage the Bones
  • Where the Line Bleeds

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