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June 2018: Magical Realism > Sing Unburied Sing/Ward - 4 stars

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message 1: by Anita (new)

Anita Pomerantz | 6758 comments Well, everyone who knows me knows that magical realism is not my thing, but I did love Lincoln in the Bardo so I thought that maybe the ghosts in this story wouldn't affect my enjoyment too much. To be honest, for me, the ghost of Richie detracted from the the novel while the ghost of Given worked. That being said, I am completely in love with Ward's prose. This book is the second one I read from her this year, and magical realism or no magical realism, this author deserves the prizes she has received.

The plot, such that it is, focuses primarily on JoJo, and young adolescent and son of a mixed relationship between Leonie (African-American) and Michael (Caucasion). JoJo lives with his grandfather and grandmother and Leonie, and Michael is finishing up a prison term. Let's just say Leonie isn't going to be winning any "mother of the year" awards. She's a drug addict, somewhat violent, and very selfish. As a result, JoJo is very much more bonded to his grandparents, specifically his grandfather, River. Personally, I found the novel's exploration of the darkness of the day to day existence of this family - which has faced many struggles including the murder of Leonie's brother - to be interesting in and of itself. However, it is a slow reveal . . .not a whole lot of action.

Where things either get more interesting (if you like magical realism) or more unbelievable (if you are a skeptic like me), is when we meet Richie, the ghost of a boy who was imprisoned at the same time River was. River attempted to protect Richie, recognizing he was too young to really survive on his own. Unfortunately, Richie's spirit is not at rest, and he attempts to use JoJo to reach River and get some resolution regarding his tumultuous past. Apparently, I just have a LOT of trouble suspending disbelief, but even if I can get my mind around the existence of ghosts, I am challenged with the idea that an innocent child's afterlife would be as unresolved and painful as Richie's.

Ward does a better job with the ghost of Leonie's brother who only really appears to her when she is strung out on meth - - hence making him more believable to me as perhaps a figment of her drug addled imagination.

It truly is amazing I'm giving this book four stars; that's how good Ward's writing is. I think she does some incredibly unbelievable things with this story, and somehow she pulls it off. I appreciated her ability to create empathy in her reader even if I didn't personally care for the means.


message 2: by Booknblues (new)

Booknblues | 6893 comments I am a big fan of Ward's as well. I loved this book.


message 3: by Sushicat (new)

Sushicat | 805 comments Looking forward to reading this - hopefully soon...


message 4: by Tracy (new)

Tracy (tstan) | 1238 comments I’m glad you liked it! She’s such a talented writer.


message 5: by Joy D (new)

Joy D | 4650 comments I have this one on my TBR. Will have to bump it up on the list based on your review.


message 6: by Susie (new)

Susie | 4488 comments Anita, which one did you enjoy more, this or Salvage the Bones?


message 7: by Anita (new)

Anita Pomerantz | 6758 comments Susie wrote: "Anita, which one did you enjoy more, this or Salvage the Bones?"

Interesting question. I thought Sing Unburied Sing featured better writing, but overall I preferred Salvage the Bones because of the plot line and the fact that the terrible situation of the family was more balanced with glimmers of hope. It didn't have ghosts - - a HUGE plus for me. I liked the ending that wasn't all tied up with a bow. Both were very good . . .and I think most people would prefer Sing Unburied Sing, but I guess I'm not most people.


message 8: by Michael (new)

Michael (mike999) | 569 comments Great review. LOL on mother of the year. I love a lot of fantasy but used to bothered by yhe intrusion of make-believe into stories otherwise steeped in realism. But that kind of collision has its own special impact in the way it personifies the injustices of history and the unresolved transgressions eithin families.


message 9: by KateNZ (new)

KateNZ | 2677 comments I really have to read this - lovely review, Anita.

I don’t usually go for ghosts either, but I coped more than fine with Jimmy in ‘Practical Magic’, I have ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ beckoning from the shelf and nearly all my book buddies from PBT are raving about this book ... And the speed the year is going, it will be Halloween before I know it ...


message 10: by Anita (new)

Anita Pomerantz | 6758 comments Michael wrote: "Great review. LOL on mother of the year. I love a lot of fantasy but used to bothered by yhe intrusion of make-believe into stories otherwise steeped in realism. But that kind of collision has its ..."

Thanks so much, Michael . . .I agree that the magical realism in this book was at least injected in a purposeful way that I could appreciate from a literary standpoint, even if I still didn't quite enjoy that aspect as much as the rest.


message 11: by Anita (new)

Anita Pomerantz | 6758 comments KateNZ wrote: "I really have to read this - lovely review, Anita.

I don’t usually go for ghosts either, but I coped more than fine with Jimmy in ‘Practical Magic’, I have ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ beckoning from t..."


I hope you actually like Lincoln in the Bardo. My one fear is that it is such an American book. I loved the structure, but it seems like the Civil War period is imparted in every history class from second through 10th grade, so not a lot of background information or context is required. I'll be curious what you think . . .


message 12: by KateNZ (new)

KateNZ | 2677 comments I’ll let you know, Anita. I’m sure there are a mass of references that I’d miss but it will be interesting to see if the book stands without them. I thought I’d read it for Nicole’s cultural challenge :D


message 13: by Book Concierge (new)

Book Concierge (tessabookconcierge) | 6407 comments I was not a big fan of Salvage the Bones ... just 3 stars. It's one of those books where I appreciated the writing but just didn't like the book. However, I do still have THIS book on my tbr, but have not been enthusiastic about it. Your review makes me look at it again. Maybe the next time it fits a tag ....


message 14: by Amy (new)

Amy | 9388 comments As usual, I’m absolutely with BC. Often I’m reminded of the reason she considers us book twins. Here it is. I also felt that salvage the bones was a solid three. It’s just hard for me to enjoy books that are absolutely painfully difficult, even when the writing is stellar. I do think sing unburied sing might appeal to me more.


message 15: by Anita (new)

Anita Pomerantz | 6758 comments Personally, I think this book was even darker than Salvage the Bones . . .so maybe think twice . . .


message 16: by Nicole R (new)

Nicole R (drnicoler) | 7784 comments KateNZ wrote: "I’ll let you know, Anita. I’m sure there are a mass of references that I’d miss but it will be interesting to see if the book stands without them. I thought I’d read it for Nicole’s cultural challe..."

Ugh, my cultural challenge that I am totally failing! I have only read two books....


message 17: by Amy (new)

Amy | 9388 comments Nicole, I didn’t choose to follow your nonfiction component. And therefore have traveled all over the world through historical fiction and fiction. Maybe if you look through your list you’d see that you’ve done the same.


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