Silver Sparrow is set in 1980’s Atlanta, told in two parts through the eyes of Dana Yarboro and Chaurrise Witherspoon, two ‘half’ sisters, but only one of them knows it. Their father James Witherspoon is a bigamist, married to both of their mothers. Dana is his daughter with his second wife Gwen, and Chaurisse is the daughter of his first wife Laverne. And while Dana and Gwen very much know about Chaurisse and Laverne, Chaurisse and Laverne have no idea about them in return. This is the ultimate ‘The grass isn’t always greener’ story, where both sisters has something the other doesn’t have, and desperately wants.
Originally published in 2011 in America after struggling to find a publisher, Silver Sparrow is Jones’s third novel, the success of An American Marriage winning the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2019 paved the way for the novels publication further afield. And just like An American Marriage, Jones’s smooth eloquent writing knows just what to tell the reader and when, building a consistent tension until a climatic finale. If you loved An American Marriage, you will love Silver Sparrow, and for me it would be impossible to choose between the two.
This is very much a coming of age story for Dana and Chaurisse. Both of who are confronted with that startling moment you find out your parents are people too, flawed and full of layers. At the tender age of 17 they are also confronting their own class, looks, and future prospects. While Dana is a fiery, beautiful and smart ”silver” girl. Chaurisse gets to live with her father, in their stand alone house, on a nice street. And what eventually ties them together is their shared loneliness.
All the characters in this book are brilliant, and adding in the perspectives of both Dana and Chaurisse is the perfect way to create a 360-degree view adding more layers to each character. We start the story with Dana’s perspective, allowing us to build preconceived notions of Lavern and Chaurisse. But as soon we switch over to Chaurisse telling the story, you will be annoyed that you even allowed yourself to (warning: bad joke coming up) judge a book by it’s cover. Initially I thought this would very much be a story where I would form ally ships with one family, but by the end it’s clear that this isn’t a story of who is good, or who is bad, just that we are all human, and sometimes there is no right answer.
This review may sound like this book is very heavily focused on just the girls stories, but it is only because this story is best read with out too much information. James, Raleigh, Ms Bunny, and both of the wives, could easily have their own paragraph each, analysing their part in the tale and individual tragedies. My only hope is that this review has given you enough reason to read this book and discover their stories for yourself.
I will be recommending this book to all readers for a long time to come, and especially to readers who enjoyed The Vanishing Half, Girl, Woman, Other, and Red at the Bone. I loved this book so much that just like Sorrow and Bliss, I had to take a reading break for a couple of days to allow recovery from the inevitable hangover a good book can bring. And just so I could sit with the characters for just that little bit longer.