Sing, Unburied, Sing

Ward, Jesmyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
McClelland, Spencer
  • Date of entry: Feb-12-2018
  • Last revised: Feb-12-2018


A family epic set in rural Mississippi and spanning several generations. Often described as a road novel by reviewers, the story centers on Jojo, a 13-year-old boy struggling to protect his younger sister Kayla from the disarray of his parents' influence: one Black, one White; one in prison; both addicted to meth. These forces contend with Jojo's stoic yet caring grandfather, his mystical-spiritual grandmother, his bigoted grandparents on the other side, and the strange passenger they collect while on the road.  


For lack of more professional language, this novel completely blew me away.  The writing is so superbly controlled and confident.  The moments Ward navigates are tense and affecting without falling into melodrama or pastiche.  And the fact that there are elements of the supernatural/spiritual in it does not in any way work against the very grueling reality of the subject matter she is taking on.  Perhaps my favorite thing about this work is the way Ward pulls the reader's allegiance back and forth between the different characters, testing our ability to empathize with even the novel's apparent villains.  My favorite novel of 2017.


National Book Award for Fiction (2017)
MacArthur "Genius grant" (2017)



Page Count

304 pages