Every family has secrets…little secrets, big secrets, old secrets, new secrets, and dirty secrets…but secrets nonetheless. What would you do if you were “the secret“? SILVER SPARROW: A Novel by Tayari Jones is about the unspoken rippling effects and aftermath of such secrets.
Set in the 1980s, two young women on a path known only to one of them. We are introduced to the main characters, Dana Lynn Yarboro and Bunny Chaurisse Witherspoon, along with James Witherspoon. Born only four months apart they share a special bond the same father. The first line of the book announces that fact that James Witherspoon is a bigamist. Marrying Dana’s mother years after he married Chaurisse’s mother. One “fake” marriage, two “real” daughters and a lifetime of unanswered questions.
SILVER SPARROW is told through her eyes, the eyes of the “outside” child. (Outside the marriage). She details the deception of her parent’s relationship and her birth. Even though Dana is James’ firstborn the world doesn’t get to acknowledge her birthright. This realistically, raw tale of rejection, hurt feelings and the wish &/or longing of a child for her father to choose her and her mother over his other family.
We follow Dana as she seeks one thing from her father…to no longer be a secret. She befriends her sister Chaurisse, but doesn’t tell her that they are related. What starts out as an innocent quest to learn more about her father and her sister ends badly, with a trail of hurt feeling littering that path, destroying more than is built. Through the progression of their friendship we learn a lot about the girls. By the end of the book Dana’s actions are just as hurtful and the betrayal cuts just as deep as the one she grew up with.
Gwendolyn (Dana’s mother) is content with the crumbs and the stolen moments James gives her. She would rather be second fiddle and sacrifice her daughter’s emotional well-being, instead for being with a man who adores her (James’ best friend, Raleigh). But it’s not that simple, to Gwen, Raleigh is weak and not her cup of tea. By her actions, she is teaching Dana to settle for less that she deserves.
Contrary to belief, illegitimacy isn’t a male or female thing. Being an illegitimate child has no limitation on acceptance. It is not the illegitimacy, but the legitimacy that is at the center of Dana’s quest. To acknowledge Dana and her mother to the world would be to admit to that he (James Witherspoon) was deceitful. Tayari Jones explores how a teenager, at probably the most impressionable period in one’s life, growing up knowing that the man who “creeps” over weekly to “play” house with you and your mother and whom you call “daddy” has another family.
SILVER SPARROW is a book that starts with a bang and leaves you wondering what would you do in similar circumstances. It is well-written and very engaging. The family dynamics of a modern-day bigamist. The selfishness of the James (her father), the naiveness of Chaurisse (her half-sister), the cunningness of Gwen (her mother), the loyalty of Raleigh (James’ best friend) and the emptiness of Dana’s heart. We find that the very thing Dana feared the most came to pass, in more ways than one. Would you risk it all to find yourself? Sometimes you just can’t make things right. “We teach people how to treat us. You will never change what you tolerate.”
Let’s BOND over BOOKS rates SILVER SPARROW as MELODICALLY MEANINGFUL (151-300 pgs)…just the right mixture of content and pages.