Sing, Unburied, Sing deserves its praise. This is not a genre that I traditionally read. If it involves ghosts, I probably have not read it. I tend toward fiction that is more oriented toward fantasy, science fiction or mystery in general. But ghosts here make a lot of sense. They bring history into the discussion of the black experience.
I realized with The Darkest Child that part of what makes Black fiction powerful and often difficult to read in its tragedy is its embrace of the cascading nature of sin. Sin begets sin so that there is often the choice only between whom the harm is going to hurt.
Sing, Unburied, Sing follow several different narrators. Jojo is a 13 year old trying to be a man. The primary caregiver of his toddler aged sister, he is being raised primarily by his grandfather, Pop. His grandmother is dying. His father is in jail. His (White) grandfather refuses to acknowledge his existence. His uncle was killed by his (White) father’s cousin. His mother, Leonie, is trying to do what she can, but she also escapes into drugs.
The main story is a few days around the drive to go pick up Michael, Jojo’s father, from prison, the same prison his grandfather was in as a teen. There are two ghosts, another 13 year old boy who was in prison with Pop, and Given, Jojo’s uncle. I will not reveal more than that.
Jesmyn Ward is a beautifully poetic writer. There is a slow building. I listened to the audiobook from the library and the different characters have different narrators and all were read expertly. The book is beautifully written, and the narrators really give those words life.