No, I didn’t actually get lost, lost. I got lost sitting on my porch and reading a book. I was playing hooky in a way. I had finished revising my YA novel for the day, but I had other work to do: an interview to transcribe and emails to answer, but I let them slide. Instead, I sat on my porch and got lost reading Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones.
Getting lost in a page turner on a warm later afternoon in May — for a writer who loves to read, it doesn’t get much better than this. I’m not a huge fan of contemporary fiction, I’m more of a classics kind of gal. I just finished Jane Eyre a few weeks ago (now there’s a fabulous read!) and Madame Bovary is sitting in my office waiting patiently. Every once in a while, though, something more up to date catches my attention. And that’s exactly what happened to me today.
Maybe it was Silver Sparrow’s opening line: “My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist,” that pulled me in, but it was the story and the characters that kept me reading. This book just has a lot of heart, a lot of soul. Somehow, Tayari tells her tale through two different characters and makes them both seem equally alive, equally damaged, equally lost, and equally entitled to the love they’re looking for. She even manages to make James, the bigamist father the tale pivots around, seem sympathetic — no mean feat.
When I heard Tayari speak about writing the book, she said that as a writer, you shouldn’t judge your characters. I agree. When you write without judgment, you write with compassion and from a place where the truth of what the world offers and what it demands can be touched. As readers, I think that’s what we yearn for: we want to be touched by the truth in a way that’s safe yet enlivening.
I haven’t finished Silver Sparrow, but when I do, I’m sure I’ll experience that feeling of sadness and satisfaction that descends upon me when I lay down a story that moved and quickened me. Write on, Tayari!