Title: Silver Sparrow
Author: Tayari Jones
Publication Date: 19th March
My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist.’ This is the breathtaking story of a man’s deception, a family’s complicity, and the two teenage girls caught in the middle. James Witherspoon has two families, one public, the other a closely guarded secret. But when his daughters meet and form a friendship, only one of them knows the truth. Theirs is a relationship destined to explode.
I was immediately intrigued by the premise of Silver Sparrow because bigamy is a subject I’ve rarely read about in fiction and honestly not something I’d given much thought. The story is split between the two daughters of James Witherspoon and covers their lives and in fact, their parents lives before they were born. It is a structure that works really nicely here as the reader gets to experience some of the same events from two perspectives and it also fills in the gaps in the narratives of the two half-sisters. Telling the story in this way really hits home the fact that memory is subjective and that two people can have a totally different perception of how and why something happened and how it made them feel.
I was surprised by the fact that despite being very different people, I felt a real connection to both the girls which is testament to the author’s skill in creating relatable and affecting characters. All of the characters in Silver Sparrow are full of nuance and shades of grey. It’s very difficult to ascertain whose side you should be on because, as in life, most people can have both darkness and light within them and can often be capable of kindness and cruelty in equal measure. I loved the direct and unflinching nature of the writing in Silver Sparrow. As the novel moves forward there is a building feeling of tension and foreboding as things spiral towards what feels like an inevitable crash when the secrets between these people start to become known to everyone.
I loved reading Silver Sparrow. There is so much contained in these pages about the damage families can do to each other, the nature of womanhood and unconditional love and also how one persons decisions can have incredibly far-reaching traumatic consequences across generations. This is a insightfully written book that doesn’t take sides and demonstrates that nothing is ever simple when it comes to family and love.
Tayari Jones on Silver Sparrow:
What was your inspiration for Silver Sparrow?
I have always been intrigued by the idea of “half ” sisters. I have two sisters with whom I share a father, but we each have different mothers. They were born before my father met my mother, and they grew up in another state and led completely separate lives from me and from each other. When I was a little girl, with only brothers, I used to fantasize about having two big sisters far away who would love me, dress me up, listen to me talk, et cetera.
The link between my own personal obsession and this fictional story was inspired quite accidentally. While enjoying a night out with a bunch of friends, we were discussing one of the many cases you hear about—a man dies and the other grieving widow shows up with her stair-step kids. One of my girlfriends looked up from her margarita and said, “You know, he had to have some help from the inside. You cannot get local bigamy off the ground unless one of the women is willing to work with you.” It was all I could do to keep from running out of the bar to get home and start writing. The first line, “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist,” jumped into my head, as clearly as though someone had spoken into my ear.
I received a copy of the book from the publisher. Thank you to Oneworld for the invitation to take part in this tour. My review is my own honest opinion.