Regular price: $20.99

Membership details Membership details
  • A 30-day trial plus your first audiobook, free.
  • 1 credit/month after trial – good for any book, any price.
  • Easy exchanges – swap any book you don’t love.
  • Keep your audiobooks, even if you cancel.
  • After your trial, Audible is just $14.95/month.
OR
In Cart

Publisher's Summary

WINNER of the NATIONAL BOOK AWARD for FICTION
Finalist for the Kirkus Prize
Finalist for the Andrew Carnegie Medal
Publishers Weekly Top 10 of 2017

"The heart of Jesmyn Ward's Sing, Unburied, Sing is story - the yearning for a narrative to help us understand ourselves, the pain of the gaps we'll never fill, the truths that are failed by words and must be translated through ritual and song...Ward's writing throbs with life, grief, and love, and this book is the kind that makes you ache to return to it." (Buzzfeed)

In Jesmyn Ward's first novel since her National Book Award-winning Salvage the Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural 21st-century America. An intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle, Sing, Unburied, Sing journeys through Mississippi's past and present, examining the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power - and limitations - of family bonds.

Jojo is 13 years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn't lack in fathers to study, chief among them his black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent white father, Michael, who is being released from prison; his absent white grandfather, Big Joseph, who won't acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given, who died as a teenager.

His mother, Leonie, is an inconsistent presence in his and his toddler sister's lives. She is an imperfect mother in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is black, and her children's father is white. She wants to be a better mother but can't put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. Simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she's high, Leonie is embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances.

When the children's father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the state penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another 13-year-old boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He, too, has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.

Rich with Ward's distinctive, lyrical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an unforgettable family story.

©2017 Jesmyn Ward (P)2017 Simon & Schuster Audio

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    1,186
  • 4 Stars
    412
  • 3 Stars
    192
  • 2 Stars
    53
  • 1 Stars
    32

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    1,298
  • 4 Stars
    293
  • 3 Stars
    91
  • 2 Stars
    39
  • 1 Stars
    23

Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    1,086
  • 4 Stars
    365
  • 3 Stars
    194
  • 2 Stars
    56
  • 1 Stars
    41
Sort by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Very good read, but way too short

The story itself was wonderful, but it seems like it was too short and I still have many questions. Hopefully there will be a sequel to this book.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

3.5 Stars

Is there anything you would change about this book?

The book is pretty good in parts, and it trails off in others.

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

The ending is where it trailed off for me, the last couple hours of the book. I think it was supposed to be dramatic, but it didn't come off that way to me.

Which scene was your favorite?

It doesn't really have a stand-out scene, but if I had to pick one, I'd say the scene where the family is pulled over by the policeman.

Do you think Sing, Unburied, Sing needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

I don't think it does. I'm sure the author could make a follow-up book since the JoJo is young and Kayla is a baby, but I think the author should focus on a new story. Jesmyn Ward obviously has talent.

Any additional comments?

Overall the book is good but not great. The narrators handle this novel about as well as one can expect. I've noticed that other reviewers did not like Rutina Wesley's performance, but I thought she did a nice job. I've heard better books on Audible, and if I were to recommend a book to friend, it probably would be this one. Still, it was worth the time I spent on it. It's not long, and it kept my attention for most of the time.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Lyric & sensual writing, devastating story

I would not have appreciated spoilers for this novel, and I've seen plenty in other reviews of Ward's book. So I'll keep it short. This has the lyric power and the historic and literary importance of Toni Morrison's Beloved, but unlike in Beloved, the reader knows what the hell is going on. The setting and themes are contemporary, but you will never look at rural drug abuse or the racist injustices of the Old South in the same way after living life in JoJo's skin. Ward is particularly powerful when describing sensory perceptions. She's won one National Book Award; with Sing, Unburied, Sing, she deserves a second.

24 of 27 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Wonderful story, annoying narrator

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this story. Although I can’t say that I completely understood all of the symbolism it didn’t matter to me because the story was so good. The only downside to the overall performance was the style of the female narrator. I found the way she exaggerated her words to be incredibly annoying. This didn’t add to the story in any way for me. And in fact it took away from it. I will avoid this narrator like the plague since I prefer normal speech when listening to a book. Kudos to the author for another great book!!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Very somber read

Jesmyn crafts a beautifully poetic story that puts you directly in her characters world. Although the only characters I was drawn to were Ma, and Pa. the story was intricate and was layered with complex issues which affected all the characters differently. I did find some parts of the story boring with really no forward momentum and I don't if that was because certain dialogue or certain events that unfolded. The biggest thing for me was the lack of growth/depth from Jojo. At no point in the story does it feel like he learns or discovers anything tangible; I just feel like he was uninteresting as a main. Overall the story was good.


9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Interesting story with mostly good performances

I enjoyed the story and liked that it was told from different perspectives. The different takes on what was happening between JoJo and Leoni were thought provoking. I did not care for the performance for Leoni, though. The way the narrator were out her words was irritating. JoJo and Richie had great performances, though.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • sgonk
  • New York, NY USA
  • 11-04-17

Incredible Language and Story

Jesmyn Ward's writing is beautifully reminiscent of Faulkner and Morrison. The story feels real even as unreal events occur. The fantastical parts of the book actually help to highlight the "realness" of the rest of the story.

The story itself is about a family that is struggling to get by and to stay together. While many of the themes are timeless--or at least don't just apply to our times--there is no question the book is set in the harsh reality of the current day.

Having multiple narrators was a great choice. Rutina Wesley takes the chapters that are primarily told through Leonie's eyes, while Kelvin Harrison and Chris Chalk take the chapters narrated by male characters. All of the narrators are talented and this division of labor created a very enjoyable listening experience.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Beautiful, amazing story!

This is the best audio book I've listened to in a decade! Jesmyn Ward is a brilliant writer, her prose is beautiful and this story is deep and heartbreaking. Ward presents a story of the destructive impact of people who feel broken, yet manages to convey their humanity.
The narrators performances were fabulous!

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

One fatal flaw

Rolling Rs and trilling Ing endings does not make one a great and dramatic reader. Retina Wesley's performance took away from this audio. Otherwise I would have given it an all over four stars.

12 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Gritty and Poetic


How can such pain and ugliness of the human condition cut its way into your head and leave you with an impression of something beautiful? Jesmyn Ward is a southern author that writes about the dark realities of racism, social injustice, poverty, and the rough lives in those fringes. Her writing is so poetic, so lyrical and powerful that it almost backs down the ugliness. She lights it up and shakes how you conceive such things -- it's upsetting, it's inspirational; it's that one pinpoint of light in the darkness. Books like this are hard to read without feeling a degree of discomfort. I feel her writing is reminiscent of Faulkner, Morrison, O'Connor, amazingly on par with the greats -- I thought so when I read Salvage the Bones when it was published, but wondered if this new author could sustain the level of writing. Her storytelling is brave and focused; her characters feel exposed and lean, and I think this is an author that will continue to give us incredible novels.

From the beginning, the story is a tragedy with little hope of good fortune. Jojo is a thirteen-year-old boy, conflicted more than the average 13 yr.old mixed-race teen being raised by his black mother's parents. His mother Leonie is an addict; his white father is in prison on drug charges -- he also killed Leonies' brother but wasn't charged. The white grandparents are more than bitter and refuse to have anything to do with their grandchildren. Leonie's parents have raised Jojo and his 3 yr.old sister Kayla, Leonie in and out of their lives as to her convenience. Kayla clings to Jojo, and this closeness is a glaring confirmation of Leonie's deficits as a mother. Any love or good in these children has come from the structure of the grandparents and their love, but the grandmother is slowly dying of cancer. The opening sequence of the book seems like a warning...the grandfather unceremoniously butchers a goat with Jojo looking on. It's bloody and blunt, an automatic ritual for survival. It hints at what is to come, a warning of sorts.

Michael is being released from prison and Leonie packs up the car with the kids and a friend. The day starts out on a hectic high point and takes a quick header into disaster. The feeling of the road trip is so clear it feels nightmarish and claustrophobic. Ward doesn't make it easy for the reader to pass judgments though. Leonie's has ghosts...conscience is only silent when she's high. When sober, she regrets her lifestyle, pains to see her little girl pull away from her and reach for Jojo, she even sees the spirit of her brother, murdered by her lover's own hands. Her children also have *the sight.* They see the spirit of a slave boy who tells them about the abuse of the past; they see their uncle and his disapproval of his sister Leonie's choices. This ability to see spirits adds a bit of magical realism and also some insight as to what Jojo learns about himself and his legacy.

The power of this book blew me away. Overall, this is a masterpiece, but it pummels your conscience...I wanted to take away a star just because it was so hard to read that it hurt.


11 of 14 people found this review helpful