Silver Sparrow: a novel by Tayari Jones

Set in black, middle class Atlanta in the 1980s, this book opens with the words, “My father, James Witherspoon is a bigamist. He was already married ten years when he first clamped eyes on my mother.”

James’ secret daughter, Dana, speaks these lines and tells her story first. When she has finished her narrative, Chaurisse, the daughter that James claims publicly, picks it up. They each describe how James’ relationships with their mothers evolved and how they themselves managed their beauty and sexuality as they grew up.

The central action of the novel pivots on the fact that Dana and her mother know about the Witherspoons, but Chaurisse and her mother are ignorant of the second family.

The core dilemma in the book, beautifully and poignantly described through the actions and thoughts of the flawed, human characters, is the longing for connection. Jones lovingly brings this longing alive, and she doesn’t flinch from making the fragility of connection equally clear.

Highly recommended.
For writers: Tayari Jones is doing a writing challenge during the month of August. See her blog at

Reviewed by Lily


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