Title: Silver Sparrow
Author: Tayari Jones
Publisher: Algonquin (Workman Publishing)
Pub. Date: May 24, 2011
I read and enjoyed Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones earlier this year and adored the characters in that book. I was fortunate enough to meet Tayari, who was super wonderful, at this year's UCF Book Festival and had her sign my book (the first Silver Sparrow book she had signed!) I truly anticipated this book but worried that my high hopes would lessen my enjoyment of the story when it came down to it. Fortunately, I thoroughly enjoyed Silver Sparrow. I was enraptured by yet another wonderful story of how life circumstances affect the children whose lives it is intertwined in.
Silver Sparrow starts out with the line, "My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist". And so begins the stories of Dana Lynn Yarboro and Bunny Chaurisse Witherspoon, half-sisters, though unbeknownst to "Chaurisse" and her mother. For their whole lives, Dana and her mother have lived a secret life - one in which they can't reveal who their father/husband is because Mr. Witherspoon has another wife and daughter nearby who don't know they exist. In fact, no one but his brother, Raleigh, is aware that James married another woman and fathered another child. Dana grows up in this secret life where "surveillance" of Chaurisse and her mother are regular activities for her and her mother. We first meet Dana as a young child and watch as she turns into an adolescent, all along wondering why she isn't good enough to have her father full-time, why she has to be hidden, whereas Chaurisse can live openly. And as she gets older, it becomes more difficult for Dana to stay away from Chaurisse, especially since they run in some of the same circles. But in doing so, she becomes dangerously close to exposing the truth to the other family. Halfway through the book, we switch to Chaurisse's point of view, though I liked how chronologically the story continued moving along. While Dana is clearly the unfairly treated daughter, we are then exposed to the injustices Chaurisse has to deal with as well.
Just as in Leaving Atlanta, Jones did a magnificent job of bringing these characters to life and making them authentic. It was so easy to relate to both girls and to really feel like I could understand where each of them was coming from. Ultimately, they both had a bum deal despite their differences that each girl envied of the other. I was riveted by the charade their father put on, and the build up of tension as the two families came close to collision was palpable. And in staying true to its authenticity, the book did not end in the glittery, perfect way I hoped it might. But that made it more real and gave me something more to think about. Silver Sparrow is one I would definitely recommend! (And I just wanted to mention that also liked the title and thought it was clever!)