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Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones book review

 

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones


Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones book review


Silver sparrow by Tayari Jones. Most people probably know Tayari Jones for writing the book an American marriage, which I read when it originally came out and I really enjoyed that book. And so I've had my eye on picking up more of her books and books from her backlist and whatnot since then. And so I finally picked up my first one. 

So in this story, you are following basically these two families that are related, but not in the way that you would expect. The father figure in this book is named James Witherspoon and he has two families. 

He got married when he was really young and then when he was older he started having an affair and then he married the woman that he was having affair with while still married to his other wife. So yeah that's exactly like how the story starts out. 

The very first line in this book that's like printed on the back and on the blurbs it says, "my father James Witherspoon is a bigamist." So the way this book is broken up is into kind of two sections. 

In the first section you are following the story through Dana's point of view who is the daughter in the secret family. And then there is the second half of the book that is told through the eyes of Gwendolyn who is his like public family. 

The story is set in Atlanta in the 1980s and you're following these two girls as they are growing up and just sort of realizing the life that they have as well as what they definitely don't know about the world. 

The secret family knows about the public family but the public family doesn't know about the secret family. And so in the first half of the book you're seeing kind of how the secret family chooses to live their life. 

A lot of what they get is sort of based on what the public family gets and they sort of get the leftovers or the hand-me-downs from that fact. Dana, who's in the secret family, goes to a different school than Gwendolyn. 

She wants to go to this camp but Gwendolyn wants to go to the camp. So the father let's Gwendolyn go to the camp and makes Dana choose a different one. Or when she wants to get a job at the amusement park over the summer, the father says no because Gwendolyn is working at that amusement park over the summer, things like that. 

And so you basically just follow them as they grow up and deal with these circumstances. And it's really hard to give like a plot summary that's more expansive than that because then you're just getting into like the real specifics of what happens in this book, which isn't really what's important here. 

So if you're someone who read an American marriage, I can't necessarily say whether or not you're going to like Silver Sparrow, which is probably super unhelpful for a lot of people who are watching this thinking about that specific thing. 

But I feel like it's a book that you should give a chance anyways because there are a lot of things in here that feel very familiar if you read an American marriage but this book is wholly different from it as well. Just that like plot summary alone I feel like shows how it's different and how it's similar. 

It's similar in the sense that you're following this really complicated family situation, which is also what happens in an American marriage but it's just like a completely different type of complicated family situation. 

So it isn't the same, you know, but it has a familiar feeling to it. Tayari Jones is really good at creating these complicated characters that you end up caring a whole lot about. 

When you're reading this book from Dana's perspective, you have so much sympathy for them and the situation that they're in. And then it switches over to Gwendolyn's perspective and then you start to gain a lot of sympathy for them in their situation and the fact that there's so much more going on that they are completely ignorant about. 

And so if like that complicated situation, a high drama sort of thing is kind of what you enjoyed in American Marriage or one of the things that you enjoyed in American Marriage, I think you would like this book. 

But this book feels very different. This book was written seven years before an American marriage and you can see like the growth that Tayari Jones has as a writer between this book and that book. 

This book is a much slower-moving story and it feels slightly less planned out. Like obviously I can't really say that because I don't really know how much tayari jones planned out any of it. 

But an American marriage felt like it had a purpose and a plot and this one is kind of more of one of those like slow, meandering coming-of-age stories where just following someone grow up and seeing how they deal with the circumstances with their lives. 

And that's not meant to be a major like diss against this book but it is that way. And so I can see this appealing to less people. And especially for me, I went into this book knowing basically nothing but the synopsis. 

And so for the first half of the book I was reading it and I was enjoying it because Tayari Jones is a good writer but I couldn't necessarily see where it was all going because there isn't, again, a very strong plot in this book. 

But then once it's like switches perspectives, certain circumstances happen and you can see sort of like where it's moving towards. And that kind of makes it more exciting again. 

And so I feel like if you're someone who-- and so I feel like if you're someone who picked this book up like completely blind you could be put off by the first half of this book just because it doesn't really feel like it's going anywhere and it doesn't really go anywhere until the second half of the book. 

But Tayari Jones looks at a lot of the same themes in terms of like family and loyalty and love and betrayal and all of those different ideas. But again just through different vessels and through different situations. 

I feel like this would be a really great book club book because everything in here is so complicated and so gray and it's so hard to have like super strong feelings about this was-- this character was always right or this character was always wrong or anything along those lines.

Just like in real life, every character in here makes really terrible mistakes and every character in here makes goodness-- like good choices and you can't really judge any of them because they're kind of just doing the best that they can for the most part. And the ending is for sure going to give people a whole lot of opinions. 

I won't state what my opinion was. I was just surprised that it went the way that it did. But also I feel like I would have been surprised no matter, if I think about like every possible scenario, they all would have just been surprises because again this book has so many like conflicts and twists and complicated situations that there's no like clear path that it could have taken. 

I found this to be like a really beautiful book though because you're following these girls as they're growing up, these two black girls who are both dealing with you know being black in the United States. It's set in the 1980s. 

I don't remember if I said that already. And so they're like growing up in this world and learning about who they are and who they should be and who society expects them to be and who you know even their family and their parents expect them to be and they have their own hopes and dreams for their lives. 

But then they're also in this like extremely complicated situation that also just adds additional layers to it. And your heart just kind of breaks for them because like they never chose to be in this situation. You know, at least like the parents or at least you know the dad and one of the moms chose this life for themselves to a certain extent. 

And so the kids kind of feel like they're screwed no matter what because they are in this situation but they never would have chosen to be in this situation if they could. So yeah, in the end I gave this book at three and a half out of five stars. It's not as strong as an American marriage in my opinion, but I do see on Goodreads that there are some people who like this one more than American marriage. 

So I guess like your mileage may vary but I suppose that's the case with all books. But for me personally, I just feel like an American marriage was so much stronger and tightly written that that's always just what I'm gonna gravitate towards. But I still feel like this was a completely worthwhile read. So those are my quick thoughts on Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones. 


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Also read: Everyone Knows You Go Home by Natalia Sylvester book review

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