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: Special-education teachers who truly love the field are difficult to find

    November 15th, 2018
    by

    Outstanding special education teachers who truly love the field can be almost impossible to find.


    Your right to know: Racine case shows folly of official secrecy

    November 15th, 2018
    by

    Secrecy in government, compounded by court-ordered secrecy, gives rise to speculation and rumor.


    Editorial cartoon

    November 9th, 2018
    by

    […]


    Editorial cartoon

    November 9th, 2018
    by

    […]


    Letter to the editor: Every vote matters

    November 1st, 2018
    by

    Every vote matters By Lee Van Landuyt | Hillsboro In this election season, it is vital that everyone distinguish fact from fiction and truth from “alternative-truths.” It is not always easy to


  • Letter to the editor: Tammy Baldwin deserves your vote

    November 1st, 2018
    by

    Next week is one of the most important elections in the history of our country and in the history of labor — and that’s why we need to support Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s reelection to the U.S. Senate.


    Letter to the editor: Elect Loren Oldenburg to 96th Assembly

    November 1st, 2018
    by

    As a business owner serving farmers and commercial businesses of the 96th district for more than 40 years, I would respectfully submit for your consideration the endorsement of this quality man.


    Letter to the editor: Vote for Loren Oldenburg on Nov. 6

    November 1st, 2018
    by

    Please join me in voting for Loren Oldenburg on Nov. 6 for state representative for the 96th Assembly district.


    Letter to the editor: Oldenburg is steadfast, sure

    November 1st, 2018
    by

    I am writing today to share my voice and opinion about the Republican candidate for the 96th District Assembly seat, Loren Oldenburg.


    Editorial cartoon

    November 1st, 2018
    by

    […]


    Your right to know — Survey: Dems back more openness, GOP mostly mum

    October 25th, 2018
    by

    By Dee J. Hall In advance of the Nov. 6 elections, the Wisconsin Freedom of Infor mation Council surveyed candidates for state Assembly and Senate to gauge support for initiatives to


  • Local Weather

  • Facebook

  • [Advertisement.]
  • Archives