Thursday, April 19, 2012

277 (2012 #22). Silver Sparrow

by Tayari Jones,
read by Heather Alicia Simms and Rosalyn Coleman Williams

I learned about this audiobook in an online webinar about new releases, and its premise was intriguing.  James Witherspoon is an African-American bigamist - in 1969 middle-class Atlanta.  His first wife, Laverne, and his second "wife," Gwen, have daughters born within a few months of each other, Chaurisse (prononunce Shaw-rees) and Dana, respectively.  Dana and Gwen, of course, know about Chaurisse and Laverne, but naturally, the latter two don't know about the former two - not at first.

The first half of the book is narrated by Dana (Heather Alicia Simms in the audiobook), and gives us most of the background to the situation, as well as Dana's point of view on being the "secret" daughter. Chaurisse takes over in the second half of the book (voiced by Rosalyn Coleman Williams), providing some more background, and continuing the story from the point where Dana makes a deliberate attempt to befriend her half-sister, which ultimately leads to confrontation and sadness.

Tayari Jones has done a marvelous job making the reader care about both girls, and their mothers.  Having Dana tell her side first was genius in that it created empathy for her situation, that I'm not sure would have happened if Chaurisse had "spoken" first.  I even had some empathy for Uncle Raleigh, caught in the middle - but none whatsoever for James.

The title is a little puzzling, although Jones explains in an interview that "silver" comes from Chaurisse's description of Dana (the prettier of the two) as a "silver girl," "a girl who is better than she is."  The "sparrow" comes "from the hymn 'His Eye Is On The Sparrow' — being the sparrow is the least among us," Jones says. "Because I think that's what Dana is, she's a silver sparrow."

I didn't care much for the cover of the hardback and audiobook, pictured above.  I think the upcoming paperback (due out by May 8), pictured at left, is much prettier and fits the story.

I would recommend this book and audiobook, and I think it would be a good one for a book club discussion.

© Amanda Pape - 2012

[This audiobook, and a print copy for reference, were borrowed from and returned to my university library and my local public library, respectively.]


  1. SILVER SPARROW is a touching story that will leave audiences identifying with all the lost children of the world. Though the subject seems heavy, Tayari Jones's third novel (following LEAVING ATLANTA and THE UNTELLING) really does read quickly and easily. The characters are all amazingly relatable and lifelike, and readers will definitely love the two daughters. The book will also satisfy any curiosities you might have about the psychology of bigamy.