Review: Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

I had this book languishing on my e-reader for the longest time, and it wasn’t until I read (listened to) An American Marriage that I remembered I had it.

Silver Sparrow is a good story. It follows Dana Yarboro and her complicated relationship with her bigamist father, James, and later with her younger sister, Chaurisse who is unaware of their true relationship to one another. The idea of secret families and the lengths that a person or persons will go to keep the secret is an intriguing subject, as well as heartbreaking when you consider the level of deceit required.

Yet reading the novel, I felt kind of flat. I don’t know whether it was me, the mood I was in or what, but I simply could not fully connect with the story or the characters. Maybe I expected too much, or wanted the kind of drama and scandal you see on soap operas. Which to be fair was present, but didn’t elicit the sort of brow raising excitement I’d expect. The dramatic tension simply wasn’t there, until the near the end of the book and by then it was a bit late.

Instead I found myself wondering about the motivations of the characters in the choices they made. In particular why James’s adoptive brother, Raleigh continued to assist in the cover up, defending James every chance he could, even though he was clearly in love with Dana’s mother. This plot element was reminiscent of the Roy-Celestial-Andre set up in An American Marriage, and I just wasn’t here for it.

What I did like about Silver Sparrow was the perspectives of the two sisters, and how their family dynamics directly and indirectly contributed to their choices and behaviours. Chaurisse was an interesting character, because as the daughter of James’s first wife, she had all the privilege of having two parents who doted on her without fully realising it. Her main concern, as it is for many teens, was being liked and being accepted. Yet whatever, she wanted she got, usually at the expense of Dana who had to make so many sacrifices to ensure that Chaurisse and her mother never found out The Secret. This made it all the more devastating when The Secret was finally out. Let’s just say it wasn’t the ending I hoped for.

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