Book review: ‘Sing Unburied Sing’ depicts wandering spirits

By LARRY BALLWAHN | Wilton

Narrated through the eyes of several of the main characters, Jesmyn Ward’s 2017 novel “Sing Unburied Sing” is unique. Richie, one of the narrators, is a ghost, one of the unburied. It turns out that if your death was so violent that even God can’t look, your spirit wanders, looking for a way in. At the end of the book, at least part of the way is revealed.

The story is about a dysfunctional family that lives on a farm on the gulf coast of Mississippi. Some members of the family have the gift of “seeing.” In some the past, some the future and some the unburied. Add to this that the mother, Leonie, is drug addicted and visions abound. With a drug-addicted mother, Jojo and Kayla live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop. Leonie is in the picture from time to time usually to complicate things. Kayla has learned she can depend on Jojo, and she often needs to rely on him just to have her basic needs met. Mam explains that Leonie loves them but she “don’t know how to show it,” or feed them, for that matter.

Pop has his hands full, as Mam is dying of cancer. When she has used all of healing knowledge she possesses on herself, she concludes that the end is near. She sets Leonie about assembling the things that will allow her to get to “the other side of the door.” Leonie assembles cemetery rocks and an assortment of household items believed to hasten the journey. The collection eventually works, and Mam’s dead son comes as an escort.

Central to the book is the trip to get Michael, white father of the children, just released from the penitentiary. It’s not clear why he was there, but it was likely drug related. The trip is seen through the eyes of several of the characters. It is most difficult for the children, as Leonie’s mind is on Michael’s return.

Not surprisingly, drugs play a part in this trip as well. As though there weren’t enough problems, the mixed-race relationship between Michael and Leonie is simply not accepted by Michael’s parents — so much for their role as grandparents.

It is made clear that Leonie’s parents, Mam and Pop, have raised Jojo well and that he serves as Kayla’s guardian. She, as it turns out, is key dealing with the unburied. The book gives us the gift of “vision” of sorts. We can “see” into another way of life, fortunately without having to live it.

Comments are closed.

  • Letter to the editor: Monroe County Board should stop unchecked nonmetallic mining

    June 20th, 2019
    by

    I was invited to attend the Monroe County hearing on ordinances for nonmetallic mining.


    Letter to the editor: Kill Bambi — if you need to

    June 20th, 2019
    by

    Is there anybody who doesn’t love Bambi?
    On June 3, the Monroe County Herald told of a serious injury accident on Highway 71 near Janus Avenue. 


    Monroe County Republicans travel to convention

    June 20th, 2019
    by

    Republican Party of Monroe County sent a contingent of party loyalists to Oshkosh in May for the annual state GOP convention.


    Your right to know: Bill would block scrutiny of lottery winners

    June 13th, 2019
    by

    Bill would block scrutiny of lottery winners By Dee J. Hall When University of Wisconsin-Madison student journalist Peter Coutu investigated frequent lottery winners in Wisconsin in 2018, he uncovered a pattern:


    Letter to the editor: Wilton Legion members ‘thoroughly soaked and cold’ on Memorial Day

    June 13th, 2019
    by

    In the May 30 County Line, there was no mention or pictures of Wilton’s Memorial Day ceremonies.


  • Letter to the editor: Trumpler

    June 13th, 2019
    by

    President Donald Trump must have had a hard time at the D-Day celebrations in France on June 6.


    Letter to the editor: Medicaid misinformation

    June 13th, 2019
    by

    In his May 17, 2019, e-Update, Budget Bulletin I, state Sen. Howard Marklein (17th Senate District) addressed the Republicans’ removal of the Medicaid expansion from the budget.


    Editorial cartoon

    June 11th, 2019
    by

    Guest view: Rediscover the Coulee, and support the farmers markets

    May 23rd, 2019
    by

    The small, rural towns of the Coulee Region are about eight to 10 miles apart. Today 10 miles can spell isolation to elderly, farmers, farmhands and their children.


    Letter to the editor: Wake up, voters

    May 23rd, 2019
    by

    I sure hope the voters have been paying attention to what the Republicans have done. Check the last eight years in Wisconsin!


    Letter to the editor: Questions for the Norwalk Village Board

    May 23rd, 2019
    by

    After reading the article, “Norwalk rejects a range of expenditures,” I was left with a few questions. Madonna Johnson, why do you think an officer of the law, whose job it is to serve and protect, even you, should have to pay for a vest that would save his life, God forbid?


  • Facebook

  • [Advertisement.]
  • Archives