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Book Review: 'Silver Sparrow'

1980s Atlanta is at the root of Tayari Jones' astonishing tale of two daughters, equally divided and equally yearning, who share one bigamist father.

July 10, 2011|By Susan Straight | Special to the Los Angeles Times

The sisters measure each other initially by hair, when Dana maneuvers a meeting in a Rite Aid. Laverne has done a weave for Chaurisse for the first time. "What my mother stitched on to my head was sixteen inches of synthetic fibers, dark and shiny like motor oil." And in the Rite Aid, Chaurisse sees Dana shoplift. "'Silver' is what I called girls who were natural beauties but who also smoothed on a layer of pretty from a jar. It wasn't just how they looked, it was how they were." Dana, Chaurisse says, "had a good twenty inches of the real thing, thick and heavy. A Barbie doll dipped in chocolate, she was the silverest girl I had ever seen." The reader feels the tension ratchet up as Jones masterfully weaves the narratives, as Dana plays a dangerous game with Chaurisse, becoming a demanding "friend" who tests her and James and both mothers. It's Jones' talent for these two voices, so vulnerable and deep-hearted, and for plot — there is an aquamarine brooch removed from the dress of a dead grandmother and given to one girl, and there is a limo, and there are wigs "like the trophy heads of deer" — that makes her novel impossible to put down until you find out how these sisters will discover their own versions of family.

Straight's latest novel is "Take One Candle Light a Room."

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