Growing up in a family of bigamists is a dream isn't it? No, probably not. When I think of bigamy, it automatically conjures up images of polygamist families in the Midwest. And prairie dresses and old-fashioned hairstyles. Do you think of the family right down the street from you? The ordinary family you see everyday. You would never know they are hiding a secret. The families in Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones are full of secrets.
James Witherspoon has the best of both worlds. He is legally married to Laverne. They have a daughter together, Bunny "Chaurisse." But that's not enough for him. He meets and falls in love with Gwen. Their daughter Dana was born just four months before Chaurisse. He "marries" Gwen, but obviously it's not legal. Shuttling back and forth between both women is great for him, but he doesn't see what it is doing to both of his daughters.
Gwen feels loved at first, but then begins to feel like a concubine. Like a whore. She and Dana fight to keep labels off of their family.
Dana gets second-best for everything. She wants to go to a certain summer program, but can't if Chaurisse wants to. She wants to work at an amusement park, but can't because that's what Chaurisse wants. She wants to go to a particular college, but can't if that's what Chaurisse wants. It's all about Chaurisse. To Dana James is "Sir" he hasn't earned the title of "Daddy" or "Father." He only wants to be "Daddy" on his terms. James wants to be her father, but only in private. Affection or acknowledgement of Dana in public could jeopardize his other life. His legitimate life is paramount. Destroying that can't happen, even when Dana challenges him. In one instance Dana wanted to go out with her friends and her father objected. He had to back down because taking the argument public would expose him. His daughter's safety isn't the issue. Wow!
Dana seems to be fighting within herself. Is she good enough? Does my father love me? Does he love Chaurisse more? What is Chaurisse like? Does Chaurisse know about me? To Dana, Chaurisse must have the perfect life. The grass has to be greener on the other side because James wants to be in Chaurisse's life.
Dana narrates the first half of the novel. Chaurisse takes over in the second half. Chaurisse is just as flawed internally as Dana. Chaurisse is lonely. She doesn't have people she can truly call "friends." When not in school, most of her time is spent working in her mother's hair salon. She doesn't feel pretty. She's the plain girl in the background. Chaurisse is not one of the "silver girls." The silver girls are ones who are naturally pretty. They don't need any enhancement with makeup. Chaurisse thinks Dana is one of those silver girls. She doesn't know Dana is her sister, but the two form a friendship. A friendship where Dana seeks to see if the grass truly is greener on the other side.
This is a great story of how complicated life can be. You feel like you are right there as the story unfolds. You feel for both Dana and Chaurisse. They are fighting to find out where they belong. The ending isn't wrapped up in a bow either. It left me wanting to know what else happened to these women? Is that all there is? Because there is no true resolution. But, this is a story worth reading.
Notes: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Algonquin Books) in exchange for an honest review. For more on author Tayari Jones visit: http://www.tayarijones.com/