SILVER SPARROW by Tayari Jones

A story about bigamy.  Yeah, don’t see too many of those, do ya.  It is a story about Black families in Atlanta, which started back in the fifties when Laverne, at age 14, gets pregnant in a one night dalliance.  Her parents throw her out, and Miss Bunny, the matriarch of the family of the young boy who is the father, takes them into her home and teaches Laverne how to be a wife and mother.  At the same time, Miss Bunny’s best friend had a son about the same time as Miss Bunny, decided she didn’t care for motherhood, and Miss Bunny took him in, too, when his mother left.

The two boys, James, the reluctant young father, and his abandoned friend Raleigh, are together all their lives.  Sometime in their twenties, James meets a beautiful woman working the gift wrap counter in a department store, and I guess falls in love with her, but with no intention of leaving his wife of ten years.   They begin to see each other, and the woman gets pregnant.  Shortly after, his wife also becomes pregnant, and the two children are born, both girls.  The ‘outside’ woman wants to be married, and she and Raleigh cajole James into getting married across the state line.

The book is the story of the two girls and the two families.  The outside wife and her daughter, Dana, secretly spy on James’ legitimate family, but those two know nothing of the other woman and Dana.

Dana eventually insinuates herself into the life of the legitimate daughter, Chaurisse.   There is back story on all the characters, and of course, it all comes to a head when the outside woman and daughter come to the beauty shop of the legitimate wife and reveal themselves.

What happens next.  Does James get kicked out of both houses?  Does he have to choose?

This is all about the effects of bigamy and secrets and lying have on families, the fallout of desire, and the issue of trying to have one’s cake and eating it too.

I found it extremely readable, and a really well-done look at the issues involved.  Not everything got tied up with a nice ribbon at the end.  There were still some unanswered questions, because like life, the story doesn’t end until the characters do.

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