Sing, Unburied, Sing
by Jesmyn Ward
Jojo and Kayla live with their grandparents, and the grandmother is dying from cancer. Their mother is a mostly absent drug addict and their father is in prison. When the father gets released from prison, the mother takes her two kids and a drug addict friend on a road trip to get him. Also, there are ghosts.
Jojo is thirteen and has way more responsibility than he should be dealing with at that age. He looks after his sister and is the one person who really takes care of her. I adored Jojo. He was the best developed character, and my heart was invested in him and where his story was going. The whole road trip, which is a good portion of the book, I was worried about Jojo and Kayla.
There is a magical realism element to the story. Jojo, Kayla, their mother, and their grandmother all have a “gift” and can see ghosts. Not all ghosts at all times, but they have some contact with the spirit world. The ghost part of the story was iffy for me. In some ways, I enjoyed that part and found it added insight to other characters, but in some ways it was just too much.
Sing, Unburied, Sing deals with some tough topics, including poverty, racism, child abuse/neglect, and addiction.
Lyrical writing. Haunting story.