Book Review: Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Teyari Jones’ new novel, Silver Sparrow, a stirring first person narrative told from the point of view of two sisters (Dana Lynn Yarbor and Bunny Chaurisse Witherspoon) who live in the same city, share the same father but don’t know each other, is so specific, so personal, so authentic it almost feels more autobiographical than fiction.

“My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist,” says Dana, in the opening line of Sparrow. Both her mother and Chaurisse’s mother have the pleasure of calling James their husband. But the dynamics of these civil unions couldn’t be more different.

In an interview with NPR, Jones confirmed that Sparrow is, in fact, a work of fiction but she was definitely inspired by the intricacies of her own real-life sibling relationships.

“I do have a sister — I have two sisters. They’re not secrets, though. They’re about 10 yrs older than me, but they didn’t grow up with me. They’re my father’s daughters and they have different last names and we live different lives,” Jones says. “We don’t have that web of secrecy between us, but I’ve always felt that I had a sister just outside my grasp, and so I started thinking about this idea of sisters and secrets and then I was in a bar once with some friends having happy hour, and someone mentions one of those stories you hear all the time about [how] a man dies and two wives show up at the funeral. And so when I thought about that and I mixed it with my own wonderings about my own family, boom, this came together and a story was born.”

And what a powerful story it is. You can’t help but feel for Dana, the child who grows up with scheduled visits from her father as she and her mother play second fiddle to a legitimate family who actually bears his last name.
But just when you think you’ve chosen a side, halfway through the novel, the point of view switches to that of Chaurisse (Dana narrates the first half of the book) and you instantly relate to both girls as they go through their own individual growing pains. Chaurisse may have the license to claim James as her father in public, but she’s also an awkward teenage introvert, full of insecurities and hesitation with only half the good looks and social aptitude that her sister has been blessed with.
The two eventually forge a friendship and in the several sensational chapters that follow, sides are taken, choices are made, truths are revealed and the drama unspools in this heartfelt devastating study of the malleable definition of family and those pesky skeletons that always manage to find their way out of the closet.

Silver Sparrow is available for purchase on Amazon.


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