You might recognize Tayari Jones from her recent 2018 publication of An American Marriage. Silver Sparrow isn’t a new release (2011) but I’m glad I stumbled upon this title. This book will capture you from the first sentence: “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist”.
The book centers around four women and the shared man they all have in common; James Witherspoon is married to Laverne with a daughter Chaurisse but what they don’t know is he also has been involved with Gwen for years and his the father to Dana. The first half of the book is told from Dana’s point of view as the “other daughter”. We learn how Gwen and James became involved, how Dana has been forced to secrecy her entire life and always second best in his eyes, never quite living up to Chaurisse and Laverne.
The second half of the book is told through Chaurisse’s perspective, and how blindsided she and Laverne were to learn about James’ second life he maintained as a secret for so many decades. In an interesting and engaging story about heartbreak and deception, the reader is faced with a complex situation and a multitude of sides and perceptions.
I enjoyed seeing several sides to this tangled web of a “family” and could definitely understand each of the women’s feelings and frustrations. It’s the perfect lesson to never judge until you hear both sides of a story – the first half of the book I very much so disliked Laverne and Chaurisse as I learned about them through the jealous, bitter eyes of Gwen and Dana who were not good enough to be James’ “main” family. But as I was able to learn more about the two of them and how truly harmless they were to Gwen and Dana, I became more warm to them and my feelings flipped, feeling frustrated at Gwen for knowingly continuing such an involved relationship with a married man. While I certainly can’t say either were right or wrong, as I’ve never been in their positions, I was empathetic towards all who were involved (besides James – who was just an utter scum bag).
Silver Sparrow is a very thought-provoking read and I enjoyed the perplexity and dimension it brought to the table.