Planting Roots, Reading Books: “Sing, Unburied, Sing!” Review

Planting Roots, Reading Books: “Sing, Unburied, Sing!” Review

(Note: this book review is my Mississippi pick for my Make America Read Again challenge. to read the full list of books this year, click here. I also was given this advanced copy of the book in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley and Scribner publishing, thank you to both for the honor and opportunity.)

 

Before moving to Atlanta, Charles and I experienced a season of life that we dubbed “the Nomadic years.” Between the two of us, we spent the past decade bouncing between Greenville, Charleston, Boston, Los Angeles, and Birmingham. We both took a strange sort of pride in our amalgamation of home-bases, of being from a little bit of everywhere (but of course, always claiming Alabama as our true home).  We were used to constantly shifting, adapting, and never committing to one city or friend group because after all, a few months or a year later, we would be moving on again.

So now that we’ve moved to Atlanta, we sometimes struggle with the realization that this city of Coca-Cola and Chick-Fil-A will most likely be our home for the next several decades.  How does one establish the adult-version of home??!

It took us several months to adjust to this new way of life – of driving to work instead of walking or taking the subway, of oppressively hot summers and laughably nonexistent winters, of strangers who stop to talk to you just to talk and not to ask for money or favors. It wasn’t until this summer that we truly started forming real roots in this town, reaching out to old friends from high school and college who are now based within “the ATL,” or branching out into new social circles. But once we did, our summer plans exploded into dinner dates, weekend volunteering, and day trips across the state line. Every weekend since June has been absolutely packed, y’all. And we didn’t even take a big vacation!

So, suffice it to say my plans for the “summer of writing” were completely dashed. C’est la vie, it was still worth it.

However, Charles and I were getting a bit run down with all the excitement- the only “home-cooked” meal we had for weeks was the occasional random salad we threw together, our laundry basket was overflowing, and our cats (d’Artagnan and Gilbert, named after literary characters naturally) were feeling rather ignored.  So we spent this Labor Day weekend regrouping and resetting our lives.

 

Green Gables State of Mind
When exhaustion hits

 

 

And of course I made time for a whole lot of reading :).

 

Review: Sing, Unburied Sing!

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Y’all, this latest novel by Jesmyn Ward (out tomorrow!) was such a deeply compelling read. This was the first story by Jesmyn Ward I had ever read, though I’ve seen her in several interviews and already knew she was an intellectual, articulate creative. Plus she is a Southerner and her story settings are in the South, so I already knew her work fit right into my wheelhouse.  The opening pages proved my gut right – Ward is incredibly gifted at transporting you into her Mississippi.

The sky has turned the color of sandy red clay: orange cream. The heat of the day at its heaviest: the insects awoken from their winter slumber. I cannot bear the world.

Ward’s novel is a Mississippi Delta-styled Odyssey, as twelve-year-old Joseph sets out on a roadtrip with his less-than-stellar mother Leonie, his toddler sister Kayla, and Leonie’s best friend Misty. They are heading up to Parchman to pick up JoJo and Kayla’s white father (Leonie’s boyfriend) Michael from jail, where he has spent the past three years serving time for drug dealing. Meanwhile, JoJo and Kayla’s grandparents (and their true parental figures) as the grandmother is suffering from her bout of cancer. Naturally, several disasters ensue.

This book is the epitome of a dysfunctional family novel, and Ward does not hesitate to bring in the dark and grisly for this realistic portrayal of life in the South. The opening chapter includes a rather ghastly description of JoJo slaying a goat with his grandfather for their weekly meal prep. When reading this book, the writing causes you to use all five senses – whether you want to or not, you and those characters are smelling and seeing and hearing the same things.

“I washed my hands every day, Jojo. But that damn blood ain’t never come out.”

 

Every theme you can think of for a typical Southern novel comes into play in this book – race relations, poverty, religion and superstition, substance abuse, family dynamics, and agriculture come sharply into focus in turn. And yet each issue is brought to the reader’s attention with such grace and subtlety, you hardly understand what Ward accomplished until about thirty pages later. And she handles some of the more volatile subjects with such care and reality, it’s truly a work of art.

The majority of the book is a character study, but an added layer to this story is the theme of ghosts, both literal and figurative. Evoking the style of Toni Morrison, spirits do haunt several of the characters; but other family members are merely are haunted by their past. Part of this novel is about the ability to move from the past, to forgive yourself as well as others, to learn from your mistakes – or the failure to do these things. Mostly, Ward displays a deep and unabiding empathy for her characters; for their intrinsic humanness, for their custom combinations of vice and virtue.

Frankly, this novel ripped me apart a bit, and I think the ghosts of JoJo and Kayle and Pap are going to stay with me for quite some time.

This book is going to be big, y’all. Read it, read it, read it. (With tissues). Again, it’s being released TOMORROW!

Rating: 5/5 Stars, if not more

Read if: You love Southern Fiction, family-driven novels, you’re a human with a soul

 

 

Now that I’m back to the blogging world, what books did you read over the holiday weekend?  Do y’all have any suggestions on books to read that are set in New Mexico or South Dakota? I’m still struggling to find books for a few states… 

 

 

Mini-Review: The Most Dangerous Place on Earth

Mini-Review: The Most Dangerous Place on Earth

It’s New Release Tuesday! What books have y’all been reading on these chilly winter days?

This past weekend, Charlie Boy and I headed to Kentucky for a weekend of meetings for him and a weekend of sightseeing (for me) – however, between the snow storm and a cold I seemed to have caught, I wasn’t up for adventuring in sub-zero weather and opted to stay in the hotel enjoying their amenities and READING IN BED ALL DAY!! What a perfect weekend, right? I’ll post a review of the hotel later this week (The Brown Hotel in Louisville, KY if you’re interested), but in the mean time let’s talk about my first read of 2017, and out as of TODAY, The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson!

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Double Dose of Queen Victoria! (Book Reviews)

Double Dose of Queen Victoria! (Book Reviews)

Confession: I absolutely love reading stories and biographies about strong, independent women from history. I especially love to research royal characters (can’t help it, I have a natural love of sparkly jewelry and diplomacy). This month was a special treat for me as I had the pleasure of reading not one, but TWO excellent books centered around the life of Queen Victoria, one of my favorite women in history! I definitely have a lot to be thankful for in my reading life this Thanksgiving, even if this US election was a complete fail.

One book was fiction, while the other was a biography, and both were released last week and are available in your local bookstore or online. Read ahead for my thoughts on each!

Continue reading “Double Dose of Queen Victoria! (Book Reviews)”

A Love Warrior and The Real Liddy James

A Love Warrior and The Real Liddy James

The best part of coming down with a head cold? It’s the perfect excuse to wear pajamas all day and read {in between naps, of course!}.  Besides, my birthday is this Friday (!!!) and I’ve designated this entire week as Treat Yo Self week for me.  This weekend I caught up on a couple of books on my TBR, so let’s discuss!

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My Favorite 2016 Read (So far): A Gentleman in Moscow

My Favorite 2016 Read (So far): A Gentleman in Moscow

Special thanks to NetGalley and Viking Publishing for sending me an advanced galley of this novel in exchange for an honest review. 

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photo courtesy Goodreads

Y’all, this book couldn’t have come across my doorstep at a better time.  Just as I was researching for my trip to Eastern Europe and immersing myself in the history of post-World War I socialism and communism, I was given the opportunity to read an advanced copy of Amor Towles’ new novel, A Gentleman in Moscow. And guess what this tome’s plot is about? Why, the Bolsheviks and the house arrest of former aristocrats in post-WWI Russia!

I was sold merely by the title, but did my infatuation continue throughout the story?…

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In Praise of Sashimi: “Super Sushi Ramen Express” Delights

In Praise of Sashimi: “Super Sushi Ramen Express” Delights
Hello there Lovelies,
I am back from my jaunt to Hungary, Austria, and France and can’t wait to tell you all about it!! However, the next couple of posts will feature a few excellent reads I finished while on my vacation. Special thanks to NetGalley for providing these e-galleys in exchange for an honest review! 
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Photo Courtesy of Macmillan Publishing

 

Confession: I love food writing.  Yes, I know it’s trendy and #basic, but I can’t help it.  Whenever I find a memoir or travelogue filled with well-crafted sentences describing a simmering chicken broth or the crisp notes of white wine, I go weak in the knees.  So when I was given the opportunity to review Michael Booth’s new book, Super Sushi Ramen Express: One Family’s Journey Through the Belly of Japan, I naturally volunteered.  Food, family, and travel? Seriously, what more could I ask for?  Let’s discuss…

Continue reading “In Praise of Sashimi: “Super Sushi Ramen Express” Delights”

The Big Move and a Story of Dreams

The Big Move and a Story of Dreams

Sorry for the delayed post, lovelies! The hubs and I have been busy with our cross-country move down to Georgia in between friends’ weddings and family vacations, and it has been more than a little chaotic, to say the least…

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a recent snapchat of unpacking hell

Of course, I still have my priorities, and my books were the first boxes to be unpacked! (they also were the most numerous of boxes, even with my tendency to hoard clothes)

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this is one of THREE bookcases, and all of them are overfilled. I think a trip to Ikea is in my future…

We’re also about to embark on another trip, this time to Hungary and Austria (goulash, pastries, and wine, hurrah!), so I’ve been practicing my packing game to maximize suitcase space (more on that in another post).  Despite all the chaos currently going on in my domestic life, I still carved out time for a little readin’ and reviewin’.  Let’s get to it, shall we?

Continue reading “The Big Move and a Story of Dreams”