Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
Published by: Algonquin Books
Published on: May 2011
Page Count: 352
My Reading Format: ARC sent to me by the publisher for review
Available Formats: Hardcover, eBook and audiobook
James Witherspoon is a deceptive man. He married the first woman he got pregnant and then had a second daughter by the woman he later made his mistress. Perhaps it’s true that he never intended to hurt anyone, but it’s equally true that he put much thought into his life decisions. Dana grows up knowing that she got all of the hand-me-downs in life. The gifts from her father and the time he spent with her were all stolen from Chaurisse, the daughter of his wife. Dana’s frustration grows the older she becomes and it’s inevitable that she and Chaurisse would one day come together. When that time comes, Chaurisse would be at a disadvantage. Her father’s second family was entirely a secret to her. Told from the perspective of both daughters, Silver Sparrow exposes the harm parents inflict on their children as well as the perseverance of the human spirit.
Silver Sparrow opens from Dana’s perspective and I was sucked into the story immediately. Dana’s voice is unique and true. She is an intelligent girl and my heart ached for her when she was continually prevented from attending the activities and special schools because the less intelligent and talented Chaurisse decided she wanted to attend them. Her growing frustration and resentment was natural. While her mother may have grown content or at least resigned to being the other woman, Dana was tired of being that same man’s other daughter. As much as she raged against how her father kept her to the side, she clung to those things that would have been her birthright. As the situation becomes more unbearable, she starts to act out and the choices she makes in her love life reflect back upon the choices both of her parents made.
I was so involved in Dana that I was concerned that I wouldn’t like Chaurisse nearly as much. After all, it was her existence that caused Dana so much grief. I quickly discovered that there was nothing to worry about. Chaurisse was far from the privileged princess Dana believed her to be. While she had the full time father, her parents’ relationship was not the best and she was always insecure. She didn’t have the beauty or the talent to make her stand out or fit in with her peers. She desperately wants to be the type of girl Dana is. Going after that prize proves more costly than she ever would have anticipated. Still, there is a sense of security in the truth, even if it is in and of itself painful.
Silver Sparrow is the first novel I’ve read by Tayari Jones. I cannot say enough about her storytelling and the voice she gives her characters. Settling for an unwanted marriage or for being a kept woman is never fulfilling for the women making those choices and less so for their daughters. As I was reading both Dana and Chaurisse’s stories, I was there with them. They both deserved so much more than the pieces of their parents that they received. Jones delivers a bold story about the affect the sins of the father have on the lives of his daughters. It is compelling and thought provoking. It is an excellent and substantive choice for book clubs for and readers young adult and older.