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Silver Sparrow

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  29,167 ratings  ·  3,456 reviews
With the opening line of Silver Sparrow, “My father, James Witherspoon is a bigamist,” Tayari Jones unveils a breathtaking story about a man’s deception, a family’s complicity, and the teenage girls caught in the middle.

Set in a middle-class neighborhood in Atlanta in the 1980s, the novel revolves around James Witherspoon’s families– the public one and the secret one. When
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 24th 2011 by Algonquin Books
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Karen Purcell Fathers & mothers are the defining relationships in our lives. Primal, first & ultimately directional.

They shape us in the first 5 years, and as the …more
Fathers & mothers are the defining relationships in our lives. Primal, first & ultimately directional.

They shape us in the first 5 years, and as the saying goes, 'show me the child and I'll show you the man" (or woman!). Yes, a patriarchal society compounds these primal relationships. But the father is the most influential since he demonstrates to boys how/how not to be a man, and to girls, what a man is/should be like. Get that job wrong, as so many do, as they have not inherited a good image or through addiction or sheer bloody mindedness!

I'm the product of such a relationship. My earliest memory of realising something was wrong in my family was watching Atticus Finch father his children, especially Scout, in the film To Kill A Mocking Bird. It was like a revelation and my heart didn't stop searching, in fact hasn't stopped.

All I can say is that with long periods of counselling and prayer I have overlain that primary negative image with a positive and healing one of my Heavenly Father who is perfect & good. Even today if I get stuck I go back to counselling and prayer until I'm free again. I'm 58. My story please treat with respect even if you disagree. Thanks.(less)

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Average rating 3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  29,167 ratings  ·  3,456 reviews

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Wilhelmina Jenkins
Jan 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I had not intended to read this book so quickly or to stay up until 3 AM reading it, but I was so caught up in this beautifully written, touching story that I couldn't stop. It's the kind of book that makes you want to discuss it with others right away. I have admired Tayari Jones' writing since her first novel Leaving Atlanta: A Novel, and in my opinion, her writing has only improved over time. She is able to convey so much by the voices she creates for two girls with a common father - given an ...more
Jun 03, 2020 rated it liked it
In Silver Sparrow, we follow two sisters with different mothers who share the same father. The girls are kept away from each other. They grow up in seemingly similar circumstances, but their father's disparate treatment of them results in different lives for the two of them. When their paths finally intersect, it leads to the unraveling of their father's carefully crafted families.

The writing in here is beautiful: evocative, nuanced, and weighty. I found myself immersed in it, unable to turn awa
Elyse  Walters
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is my first book I've read by Tayari Jones. I enjoyed it very much. The majority of story takes place during the 1980s in Atlanta. "Atlanta ain't nothing but a country town".

"Silver Sparrows" is about two families. James Witherspoon is a bigamist. He was already married ten years when he first meets Gwendolyn ( Gwen).

The first half of the book is told by Dana Lynn Yarboro .(Gwen's daughter). Dana tells us how her mother and James first met. ( gift wrapping counter). Dana's mother knew Jam
Oct 04, 2011 rated it liked it
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Feb 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
A rather stunning, richly detailed novel. I loved it very much. You can peep my full review here tomorrow: ...more
Silver Sparrow was chosen as one of the top 10 books of 2011 by Library Journal.

Here is an NPR article about this wonderful gem.

Here is a Washington Post about Silver Sparrow.

What does the “other woman” represent in the nightmares of women everywhere? The mere thought of an “other woman” existing is terrifying, horrifying, humiliating and for many, beyond imagination. What if the “other woman” had a child? What if she lived in the same town and neighborhood? What if the “other woman” was
Jul 11, 2011 rated it liked it
Good read, not great. Can't really understand all the fuss. Keep hearing that "it's well written." Hell aren't books supposed to be? We set the bar pretty low when we say that. I pay good money for books, and for me well written is a minimum expectation. I think pace, subject matter, character, realism and prose are important when judging a book as worthy of ones' time. And in that vein, Silver Sparrow hits the mark. It is book you will enjoy talking about with others, because of the real life p ...more
Jan 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
Before penning the amazing “An American Marriage”, author Tayari Jones wrote “Silver Sparrow” which is about two girls who are sisters, only one sister knows of the other. Confusing? It was for me, as Ms. Jones opened my eyes to families who live with secrets and others who are obliviously unaware. She opens her story with “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist”. Yikes! One reads of those stories, generally involving some strange religion, and these people live in desolate areas, off the g ...more
Sep 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Complicated. Complicated. Complicated!
This is a book that so many "bookie" friends have recommended to me. I just recently found it in my local used bookstore with a round of other much recommended books and so I decided to dive right in. Since so many have already read it, I'm not too sure what I could say that hasn't already been said but of course, give my opinion.

Let's start with the composition. This is an extremely tempting and curious book. From the first page as our narrator starts

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Such an intense read.

How can someone commit bigamy and get away with it?
Or can they!

Deceit and lies, secrets and consequences.

What a stunning tale. Not just the women that get hurt but the girls involved too. Both around about the same age born from the belly of each of his “wives”.

When the latter part came together it was evident how such deceit went deeper than deep.

This author can surely draw you in among this family sagas complexity’s.

One family a
Feb 17, 2019 rated it liked it
The premise of The Silver Sparrow is so enticing! Narrated by two girls, one year apart in age, who both live in Atlanta and whose father is a bigamist. One knows, the other doesn't. Unfortunately, the book slumps along and never gets off the ground. I'm rating it 3 stars because it is readable, has great promise and was clearly good practice for An American Marriage. ...more
Tiffany PSquared
I hated that I waited so long to read this book.

Tayari Jones walked my neighborhood, along my streets, past stores I shopped in and restaurants I ate at in Atlanta. Her characters went to schools my friends went to and many of their experiences were mine too. Those nostalgic 80's when life seemed to be bathed in neon and everyone wore jellies, but not even bright colors could cover up some of the scandals that rocked the local hair salons with gossip in real life and also in this almost-true-to-
Feb 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
An intriguing story about an African-American man, James, who is a bigamist. James is married to two women at the same time,and has a daughter by each of them. The weird thing is James is actually a good man and it's easy to sympathize with his predicament.

I liked the structure of the book; the first half was narrated by Dana, daughter of the second wife, and the second half was narrated by Bunny, daughter of the first wife. As Chaurisse didn't knows that her father was already married, it was p
Nov 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

“My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist.” This opening line to Tayari Jones’s 2011 novel Silver Sparrow , is simply stated, but after finishing the story, we realize just how much of a punch this one sentence packs. In this wonderfully nuanced story of two sisters, one of whom doesn’t even know the other exists, we are given insight into a family and the dysfunction that results from one fateful decision. In James Witherspoon’s eyes, he believes he is “doing the right thing” by
Jessica Woodbury
Jun 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: authors-of-color
After I thoroughly enjoyed Jones' new novel, AN AMERICAN MARRIAGE, going back to her first novel was an obvious choice. Everything she did so skillfully with her second novel--switching points of view, making you empathize with characters you despised a few pages earlier, creating complex moral issues of family and loyalty--she does with SILVER SPARROW as well.

Our characters are two teenage girls, half-sisters, the daughters of a man who married his mistress despite already being married. Only
reading is my hustle
This book is devastating. I never should have started it because there is only one way for a story like this to go.

And, it did.
Now I just want it out of me. Damn.

BTW: Tayari Jones, you can WRITE. Also, that epilogue is EPIC. So real and so heartbreaking. I am a hot mess. thankyouverymuch.
Jun 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's complicated

I got wrapped up in Silver Sparrow really quickly. It doesn't take long to tell that this is not a "typical" tale about bigamy with clearly defined aggressors and victims. In general, the female characters have a lot more agency than in other depictions of bigamy, so at the end of Part I, I was interested in seeing where this would lead.

But then, I hit Part II.

Part I is narrated by one of the bigamist's daughters, and Part II is narrated by his other daughter. Shortly after the
Lauren Cecile
Oct 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyable, but I wish the author had taken it to an even deeper (social-psychological) level.
Feb 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
The book started off pretty well. The storyline was intriguing and seemed a bit familiar. However, I found it very difficult to like any of the characters in the story. I think that the author should have chosen to share the stories of Dana and Chaurisse at the same time instead of first giving Dana's view then Chaurisse's. By the time Chaurisse time had come, I was already a bit bored. I do think Jones has great potential in penning a good novel. She just missed the mark on this one. ...more
Aug 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
I think Tayari Jones is a master at writing characters. This book is told from the perspective of two sisters who share a bigamist father, but only one is aware of the other. Each sister's voice is so distinct. The first half is told from Dana's perspective, she's the secret. Then we switch to Chauresse and her voice is just as strong. I found by the end that I was frustrated with everyone, similarly to how I felt at the end of An American Marriage. But I was so invested in this family and these ...more
Jan 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
I have never read a story that even comes close to what Tayari Jones has created. Jones created a distinctive story, that engages the reader from beginning to end.

While this felt very Young Adult to me, I was completely engrossed by page 10. And I am definately not a young adult.

For some reason I was disappointed when the narrative voice changed from Dana to Chaurisse. The situation that both girls were put in was a result of their father's decision-making and Dana's mothers poor judgment.

I co
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars

Narrators: Rosalyn Coleman Williams, Heather Alicia Simms - four stars... fabulous job ladies :)

Dragged a bit at times but never boring and there were some things I wish had been expanded upon more but I really enjoyed the story despite my small problems with it.

This will make you laugh, angry, and break your heart over the course of the story. It was easy (at least for me) to get drawn into the lives of these people and the inevitable trainwreck you know will happen at some point.
Diane S ☔
Aug 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Well written book with beautiful language about a black family in the siuth whose husband and father is a bigamist. He has two families and two daughters roughly the same age. Though the first family knows about the first, his first family doesn't have the same knowledge. When as a five year old his second daughter is told by her father that she is the secret family it colors her whole life. when the two daughters become friends many things happen. ...more
Oct 31, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quick easy to read coming of age tale about two black teenage girls Dana and Chaurisse growing up in 1980's Atlanta who find out they are sisters when their father's secret lives are discovered. I'm not sure I've ever read a story about a bigamist before, but here James Witherspoon survives his duplicity with much better treatment than he deserves.
Read for 10/18 KUYH club 3.5 stars for being predictable and somewhat emotionally flat for what I'm guessing would be an intensely charged situatio
Cheryl James
Sep 19, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: favorites
Enjoyed the message. Didn't really care about hearing the story from the daughters perspective. I would have liked for the story to just flow. The story ended with so many unanswered questions. I'm hoping for a sequal. ...more
Dec 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reread-in-2019
This was even better the second time.
May 27, 2011 rated it liked it
I must confess, that even after the conclusion of this book, the story continues to resound in my spirit. Silver Sparrow is a disheartening tale of two sisters, and a disturbing family secret that divides them for the better part of their lives. The central part of the novel takes place in 1980’s Atlanta, Georgia and is written in the narrative voices of the main characters Dana Lynn Yarboro and Bunny Chaurisse Witherspoon. At the opening of the novel, Jones introduces the reader to the vivaciou ...more
Feb 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015-reads, skimmed
Bookclub selection. I read 50 pages then skimmed & scanned to the end. It's simply not a sort of fiction I enjoy. I just didn't care for the style or tone, nor the over-reliance on similes, clichés, facile observations, nor the florid summations sprinkled through out that make grand statements on life.
Maybe mine was not a blissful girlhood. But is anyone's? Even people whose parents are happily married to each and no else else, even these people have their share of unhappiness. They spend plent
Growing up in the 70's and 80's was hard enough without Dana Yarboro's father telling her, at age 5, that she and her mother are a secret. James Witherspoon's problem is that he has another wife and daughter - and their last names are Witherspoon. Silver Sparrow shares the story of two families, first from Dana's perspective, then from her half sister Chaurisse's.

I was perpetually angry with James and Dana's mother, but my overall feeling from this book was sadness. The two girls were so lonely
Read In Colour
Dec 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
With the opening line, "My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist," Tayari Jones skillfully pulls the reader into the world of two sisters: Dana and Chaurisse. Told in first person by each of the sisters, Silver Sparrow is absolutely remarkable. I realize that it doesn't come out until May, but, trust me, you're going to want to pre-order it.

As James' outside child, Dana lives in a world where she's limited by a sister with whom she can't communicate. The product of James' "marriage" to her mo
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Tayari Jones is the author of the novels Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling, Silver Sparrow, and An American Marriage (Algonquin Books, February 2018). Her writing has appeared in Tin House, The Believer, The New York Times, and Callaloo. A member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, she has also been a recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Co ...more

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