Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Silver SparrowSilver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Silver Sparrow, Tayari Jones introduces two sisters—Dana Lynn Yarboro and Bunny Chaurisse Witherspoon. What makes this story unique is that one sister knows about the other, while the second sister has no idea she has a sibling. Dana and Chaurisse share the same father, but their lives are very separate. In fact, their father, James Witherspoon, is actually legally married to both mothers, but he’s been keeping Dana and Gwen (Dana’s mother) a secret.
Jones introduces Dana first, telling her story through Dana’s eyes. In these pages, readers are given a glimpse of Dana’s turmoil of being the daughter of a man she rarely sees, but who loves her all the same. Dana finds herself struggling with the concept of “sharing” her father, especially when she knows her and her mother are James’s “dirty secret”. As Dana matures into a teenager, this confusion shows itself in her behavior. Dana and her mother are both beautiful, and the love James has for Gwen is different than his love for his first wife, Laverne. There’s a need to hang on to Gwen, not just because of Dana, but because Gwen symbolizes James’s independence.
Halfway through the book, Dana’s story stops, and we’re introduced to Chaurisse. By this time, I have developed a bond with Dana—I feel her anguish, I understand her need to reach out to her sister (even though her father has strictly forbidden it), I sympathize with her situation. When I start reading from Chaurisse’s POV, I have already built a dislike for her, even though I don’t know her. But within a few pages, this feeling subsides as I see this girl for who she is—another victim. She has no idea Dana and Gwendolyn even exist. Chaurisse is not smart or pretty (Dana is both). She struggles with her own awkwardness. She’s just a typical teenage girl.
When both girls are seniors in high school, Dana disobeys her father and befriends Chaurisse. At this point, I find myself angry with Dana because she is the keeper of her father’s secret, and Chaurisse is clueless. I know Dana’s motives are less about being friends with Chaurisse and more about digging for information, while Chaurisse immediately likes Dana and is refreshed by their friendship. When James discovers what Dana has done, the aftermath is a great amount of pain inflicted on all four women, but on four very different levels, and neither can truly understand the others’ anguish. At this point, I hate James for his lies and deceit.
Jones does a wonderful job of building tension and taking her readers on an emotional roller coaster. At first, I didn’t like being suddenly cut out of Dana’s life, and I felt Jones could have reached the same climax by alternating chapters. However, once I dove into Chaurisse’s life, I didn’t feel I was missing out on Dana—I already knew who she was, while knowing nothing about Chaurisse. Jones also writes with grace and elegance, making this dramatic shift change not so dramatic.
My only frustration in reading Silver Sparrow was in the overuse of the word “that”. It was prevalent in spots where it was completely unnecessary, often making the reading choppy. There were also a number of editorial mistakes I found difficult to believe coming from such a well-known publisher. But these errors were in the part of the editor, not the writer.
All-in-all, Silver Sparrow was a beautiful book. As a writer, I most appreciate Jones’s use of language and her gift of keeping her readers captivated, even when dividing the book into, almost, two separate stories.



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