I first heard of Tayari Jones years ago when I read The Secret Miracle. The Secret Miracle was one of those “round-table” author books where writers are asked a question and each author shares their perspective. Tayari Jones was one of the participants. I decided to keep score and figured I would read the works of the top-scoring writers. Tayari Jones was a top scorer.
Years have passed and I've read only one of those five authors I told myself I'd read (Aleksandar Hemon, the only author from that list I've read, I'd been familiar with prior to The Secret Miracle). It's time to rectify that.
Silver Sparrow stands behind a very intriguing premise. James Witherspoon, a bigamist, has two families. One family knows about the other. The other family does not. It's a wonderful setup and the story that unfolds is exciting and dramatic. I loved the narrative choice of using Witherspoon's daughters as well as the structure of giving each of the daughters half the novel to tell their story. The one negative about this was that Jones delved too far into things these girls wouldn't know about family history and such. I get that they've probably been told things by their mothers and would know some, but the detail into which they go, especially Chaurisse and the stories she tells about her mother's younger years, are unbelievable; in a story such as this, believably is extremely important. Going with a limited-third-person perspective might have aided in making this knowledge more believable, but would've distanced the reader from the characters too much. Going with any other perspective than that of the girls would've ruined the story. I think perhaps the best choice would've been to tell less of the back story, leave it to what the girls might have been told.
Jones' novel is full of characters that are realistic and interesting. The particulars and repercussions of bigamy are details most of us probably give little thought to. Silver Sparrow explores these uncharted lands with great insight and heart. It's a story of not only the Other Woman, but the Other Daughter as well.