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2018 TOB Shortlist Books > Sing, Unburied, Sing

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message 1: by Amy (new)

Amy (asawatzky) | 1737 comments so let's talk about it....


message 2: by Kristin-Leigh (new)

Kristin-Leigh (okrysmastree) | 58 comments Coming into this shortlist having only read 3 titles so far (Manhattan Beach, The Animators, and this one) this is my favorite to win - I'm going to be comparing every other book I read to this one!

I went in with no real expectations and made some snap judgments about the way the plot and characters would evolve based on the first ~30 pages...and I was so surprised and touched by the direction the book actually went. I love how rich and dynamic all of the characters are, and Jesmyn Ward's ability to set a scene in a way that's sparse yet visceral/immediate is really incredible.

She played around cliches, but none of the characters actually *felt* cliche to me - they all truly embodied their experiences and backgrounds.


message 3: by Janet (new)

Janet (justjanet) | 647 comments Reading this brought to mind a young Toni Morrison....the stream of consciousness was a lot like Beloved and that is the highest praise I can think of for a novel. I think this one will go to the Final.


message 4: by Rosie (new)

Rosie Morley (rosiemorley) | 40 comments Janet, I totally agree. I read Beloved a while ago, but even so I couldn’t stop thinking of it as I was reading.


message 5: by Holly (new)

Holly (moonshiner) I really enjoyed this novel, but it felt disappointing to me only because Salvage the Bones is one of my favorite novels of all time. I couldn't help but compare the two.


message 6: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Tittle | 49 comments Holly wrote: "I really enjoyed this novel, but it felt disappointing to me only because Salvage the Bones is one of my favorite novels of all time. I couldn't help but compare the two."
I have to agree with this. It seems like the two novels are very similar in tone and mood, if not the exact story line. But I think that Ms. Ward is shaping a world with these novels--sort of a Yaknapatawpha (sp?) county in the Louisiana delta and if I'd thought of this more when I was reading Sing, I might have had a different reaction. Wondering what her next novel will be. Also, such incredible success at a young age! I'm wondering what it says that both these books have achieved star status by the literati. What are we craving? And why?


message 7: by Dave (new)

Dave (surfer) | 1 comments A Family Saga unlike any before. A lyrically written devastating story of loss, love and unseen suffering humanity. From the forests of rural Mississippi appear the ghosts of family past, hovering like bayou mist observing and waiting while taking account and being counted. The three generations of living struggle to teach, understand, and learn from their circumstances all the while falling victim to human frailty and pressures of family dynamics.

Allow yourself lots of time to read as every page glistens with gems of observant descriptive narrative. Keep your pen/highlighting device close as you will want to revisit passages that are telling and bright.
An all together satisfying read that resonates long after the final word. All said a final note: Not an "easy" read ghosts not withstanding or perhaps because of them, this is a "real life" account of the rural poor in America.


message 8: by Ryan (new)

Ryan Fields | 77 comments Maybe somewhat random but the ghosts/spirits reminded me of Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings. And now, as I’m typing this, maybe there’s some resonance with Lincoln in the Bardo and the idea of the living and the dead sharing the same space.


message 9: by Rosie (new)

Rosie Morley (rosiemorley) | 40 comments I definitely saw the similarities with Lincoln in the Bardo, too. I’d love to see them go against each other.


message 10: by Lisa (new)

Lisa (lisapeet) | 6 comments Yeah, I was thinking the same.


message 11: by David (new)

David | 10 comments It is undeniable that this title will go far in the competition. There's a lot to appreciate. I did not adore it outright and had two disappointments:

The development of the many difficult themes seemed (to me) to fizzle out strangely in the last 50-70 pages, leaving a lot of undeveloped potential.

Richie was not at all credible. That very poor, ignorant 12 year old ghost would not have used words like "ossified", "feral", or "minaret". It made me a bit crazy, actually.


message 12: by Natalie (new)

Natalie | 51 comments I love Jesmyn Ward's other books (especially her memoir, Men We Reaped, but also Salvage the Bones), and Sing, Unburied, Sing is gorgeously written, but I'm reading it very slowly because of how sad it's making me. I almost burst into tears over Given in the lunchrlook at work the other day...


message 13: by Alison (new)

Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 463 comments Wow. I just upended my lists by jumping this one into the number one slot.

On the other hand, it left me unable to read anything for an entire day. It's good there aren't too many books in this year's competition that grab me like that, or I'd only get a handful read.


message 14: by Jan (new)

Jan (janrowell) | 1099 comments I’m trying to hold off on this so I can read it with my IRL book group in April, and you guys are TORTURING me!


message 15: by Michael (new)

Michael (grebmar) This book reminded me of The Road by Cormac McCarthy in its grim, nihilistic vision of a life devoid of hope. It was really, really depressing. The parents were terrible people, and Jojo was a blank nothing of a character. I'm surprised people love it so much given that it is essentially a story of people condemned to live empty lives. At least The Road had the idea of 'keeping the light,' of people who knew there was essential goodness in the world worth fighting for. Sing, Unburied Sing didn't even have that, though perhaps the end offers some glimmer of Kayla as a soother of undead souls...


message 16: by Alison (new)

Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 463 comments Michael wrote: "...and Jojo was a blank nothing of a character..."

I think we read different books. And, no, they didn't live empty lives by any means. Leonie and Michael's drug addiction was terrible and, at the point we leave them, unlikely to change anytime soon, but Pop and Jojo and Kayla led lives rich in love for each other, in love for the land, the animals they kept, the hopes they held. Racism made the lives less secure, but not worthless.


message 17: by Ruthiella (new)

Ruthiella | 366 comments Alison wrote: "Pop and Jojo and Kayla led lives rich in love for each other, in love for the land, the animals they kept, the hopes they held. Racism made the lives less secure, but not worthless.."

I found the last bit of the book to be very redemptive, but I think there is room enough for interpretation. I thought that the future was open for Jojo and Kayla to be a happy and fulfilled one. My only sadness was that I thought that Richie was unable to cross, that he was still bound to wander, and I so wanted for him to obtain his release.


message 18: by Peggy (new)

Peggy | 196 comments Wow. I thought Jojo was the strongest character in the book. Thoughtful, intelligent, reflective; a fierce protector of his sister, deeply connected to his grandparents and his roots. Clear-eyed about his ravaged mother and dickhead father. I loved him. He and his sister seemed solid at the end, not hopeless at all.


message 19: by Gwendolyn (new)

Gwendolyn | 186 comments It’s interesting to me that this book has garnered the least number of comments in this forum than any of the other books. Why is that, I wonder? Is it because nobody can get their hands on a copy because hold lists are too long? Is it because there’s not a lot of opposing views on the book?

In my case, this was the first Jesmyn Ward novel I’ve read, and I’m convinced she can make anything interesting—like a long road trip to pick up a released prisoner. Of course, the book is about so much more than that. It’s about family and the justice system and parenting and poverty and drugs and race, mixed in with some ghosts.

It is very difficult for me to read about kids in poverty, but if I have to do it, I want the story to be written in Ward’s prose. In just a few words, she can capture an entire relationship or a setting or a complicated emotion. It’s hard to describe, but her style is very concise while also lush and detailed. I was a little disappointed in the last 50 pages of this novel, which veered a bit too much into fantasy and seemed to lose the thread of the larger story. There’s something that just didn’t come together in the end, leaving me a bit dissatisfied. Overall, though, I enjoyed this book and could see it going far in the Tournament.


message 20: by Kelly (new)

Kelly | 28 comments Oh wow. The Road was the most nihilistic depressing thing I've read in a long time. The whole time I was reading the book, I remember thinking "Oh, just go ahead and kill yourself already."

But I thought this was a beautiful, redemptive story. Yes, its sad, but its also full of wonderful flawed characters. I was even rooting for Leonie and Michael a little, as terrible parents as they were.

The book was stunning, taking the southern gothic tradition and bringing it up to today's society, applying it to the African-american southern experience in a way that I have not seen before, and using it to twist and explore some often overlooked parts of American history. And the writing was just beautiful to me.

Its my hands down favorite to win the whole thing. Nothing compared (for me).


message 21: by Alison (new)

Alison Hardtmann (ridgewaygirl) | 463 comments Kelly wrote: "Its my hands down favorite to win the whole thing. Nothing compared (for me)...."

Me, too. It really is an extraordinary achievement. I'm glad I ended up buying a copy, because I'd like to reread it in a few months and see how much more is revealed on a second reading.


message 22: by Eric (new)

Eric | 90 comments What is a "Kill"? Some type of terrain?


message 23: by Jesi (new)

Jesi (jesinishibun) | 21 comments Alison wrote: Me, too. It really is an extraordinary achievement. I'm glad I ended up buying a copy, because I'd l..."

Well, that's all the permission I need to go buy myself a copy! I'm convinced I won't reach the top of the library's wait list for a few more months.


message 24: by Eric (new)

Eric | 90 comments In my mental movie, Lance Reddick plays Pop.


message 25: by Eric (last edited Mar 03, 2018 07:55AM) (new)

Eric | 90 comments I gave it 5/5. I said:

"Even better than Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward . In many ways it serves as an update on Toni Morrison's Beloved by Toni Morrison in that it's a ghost story that updates the state of race and racism in the South, and by extension, the rest of the country.

I remember when I read Salvage the Bones, it put me in the mind of Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston in its depiction of a flood and its effects on an impoverished population. I think Ward is, either intentionally or subconsciously evoking writers like Hurston and Morrison, and staking out her claim as their successor. But she also, as a Southern writer, invites comparison to writers like Faulkner and Thomas Wolfe.

Ward is not a one hit wonder. She's one of the best American writers and she's in it for the long haul. I'll be reading her future work with interest. She's become one of my favorites."


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