Reviewed by: Jennifer Chretien, Reference Librarian
Rating: 4 stars
Jojo has more responsibilities and worries than any thirteen year old ever should. His father, Michael, is incarcerated at Parchman Farm. His mother, Leonie, is a drug addict that sees the ghost of her brother when she's high. His grandmother is dying of cancer. His Grandfather, Pop, is doing the best he can to care for the family. Jojo has to balance parenting his toddler sister, Kayla, with helping Pop around the house.
Leonie is resentful of her dying mother, the close bond between her children, and the adoration Jojo has for Pop. She decides to take the children with her on the drive to Parchman Farm to pick up Michael. The trip is misery, which Leonie annoyed by the basic needs of her children and Jojo doing his best to sneak food and drink to Kayla in the long, hot, car ride through rural Mississippi. He is plagued by the ghost of a young man named Richie, who has some sort of connection to Pop's time in prison, and won't leave Jojo alone. It's a spiritual journey, as well as a physical one, and ends in the very same misery Jojo was anticipating when they started on their journey
Every person in this book is haunted in some way; either by the supernatural or by demons of their own making. Ward's brilliant storytelling skills weaves in several social currents in order to turn Sing, Unburied, Sing into a microcosm of what it is like for real life Jojos I can't say I loved the book because it weighed too heavily on me in the end. I can say that I found it to be remarkably moving with hints of redemption. Sing, Unburied, Sing was nominated for several awards and won the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction.