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RFM Bookshelf: “Sing, Unburied, Sing” by Jesmyn Ward

On the RFM Bookshelf, members of the RFM team share books they’ve recently enjoyed. Maybe you will, too! 

It’s difficult to categorize Sing, Unburied, Sing, so I’ll say this: It is my favorite book of 2019. 

One of my proudest parenting accomplishments is that I have raised readers, so it makes sense that my favorite books are always recommended by my kids. In Sing, Unburied, Sing, Jesmyn Ward has crafted an American masterpiece of realistic fiction with a spiritual ghost story twist that will leave you spellbound.  

Set in Mississippi and following a family’s emotional obstacle course through racism, illness, addiction, and incarceration, Ward weaves a tale of haunting depth. You root for 13-year-old Jojo and his little sister Kayla. You pray for their grandparents, Pop and Mam. And you alternately weep and sigh for Jojo’s mother and father, Leonie and Michael, young lovers from different worlds who are desperate for a break.    

Named one of the Ten Best Books of 2017 by The New York Time and a National Book Award winner, Ward’s layered novel is never heavy or overwhelming and always buoyed by the writer’s rich use of language. Expert pacing means you can grab this title from the library and finish it in one cycle.  It’s available in paperback at Fountain Book Store, along with Salvage the Bones, also by Ward and on my list this summer.

When I read realistic fiction, I want to be transported to another world populated by characters I would never meet in my life. Sing, Unburied, Sing is unforgettable and moving. I predict it will be on every high school summer reading one day. You should add it to your list this summer!

Karen Schwartzkopf has her dream job as managing editor of RFM. Wife, mother, arts and sports lover, she lives and works in the West End with her family, including husband Scott, who not coincidentally is RFM’s creative director. You can read Karen’s take on parenting her three daughters – Sam, Robin, and Lindsey, also known as the women-children – in the Editor’s Voice.

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