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Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Silver Sparrow is a book chosen simply because I had read a book by this author previously and I remembered her style. Her writing is elegant and quite beautiful to read. The opening line of this story is neither of these two things.

“My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist.”

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones- a book review of this book following the lives of two wives married to the same man- one knows the secret and the other does not. The book is told from the point of view of the two daughters.

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Silver Sparrow begins in 1968, James Witherspoon approached the gift wrap counter where he asked the clerk, Gwen, to wrap a carving knife- for his wife for their anniversary. The clerk laughed because it was such an unusual gift for a wedding anniversary. When he returned later in the day with a gift for her, (for Gwen) their story begins.

James lives a double life – two wives, two daughters the same age, and secrets. His daughter with Gwen is Dana.

At age 5, Dana draws a family portrait at school that includes herself and her mother and the wife and daughter of James, too. When Gwen and James see the picture, James decides to talk to Dana about this. James explains to her that she mustn’t tell anyone that daddy has another wife and child. Dana asks, “Your other wife and your other girl is a secret?”

His reply stuns her. James says, “No, Dana you are the secret.”

And, this is the life Dana will live as a child. She is always in the shadow of the other daughter. She cannot attend summer school events because her half-sister will be there. This continues into her high school years when Dana has to forgo a summer job because her half-sister is working at the same place. Dana’s mother relentlessly pursues having the same things as the other family- due to the unfairness of having less.

The first part of the story is told from Dana’s point of view and then it switches to Chaurisse.

Chaurisse. The daughter that Dana and Gwen have envied for so long. The daughter that got everything that Dana didn’t- especially James’ time.

But, did Chaurisse have the glamorous life Dana thought she did? Perhaps it is just as ordinary as that of Dana’s.

As Chaurisse’s story begins her mother, Laverne, is 14. She has visited the home of James and Raleigh, his closet friend. When Laverne is left alone with James, things happen. She has no idea what is happening, but allows it. Laverne is surprised to find herself pregnant later and even more surprised when the families insist that she and James marry. Remember, she is 14.

Laverne arrives at James’ home to begin taking care of him. His mother, Miss Bunny, and Raleigh also live there. Miss Bunny takes Laverne under her wing and teaches her how to cook and care for the home. The baby Laverne is carrying holds them all together.

As both girls, Dana and Chaurisse, grow into their teenage years, it seems inevitable that they will meet, and when they do Dana seeks out any information she can grab onto, striving to learn all about the lives of her half-sister and Laverne. Laverne is a hairdresser who runs her shop from their home. Chaurisse helps her when she has a busy schedule. Seems ordinary, right?

Will there be a day when not only the two girls meet, but their mothers, too? What about James? and Raleigh? The decades-long duplicity of this man will have devastating consequences.

I loved this book for many reasons. I think hearing Dana’s story first and then the background on Chaurisse’s mom later was a fabulous way to weave the two stories together. The name of the book, Silver Sparrow, is part of what you’ll learn as you read and be sure to read the author’s interview at the end. She will tell you more!

I will give this one a 4+. I wish it had about 50 more pages to bring the ending into a tidier conclusion. Definitely try it!

Here are a few more books you would like:

My rating system: 5 stars means perfection- the book was written well, held my attention, and I did not want it to end. 4 stars- the book was really good, but I had questions or concerns about parts of it. This might include the way it ended. 3 stars- the book was okay, but I just didn’t like it much. 2 stars- I skimmed most of it. 1 star- I could not finish it.

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones- a book review of this book following the lives of two wives married to the same man- both with daughters. Only one wife knows the secret.