Silver Sparrow

Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D

15 of 16
Silver Sparrow
352 pages; Algonquin Books
Sixteen-year-old Dana Lynn Yarboro lives with her mother in 1980s Atlanta, not far from her father, who visits at least once a week. But in Tayari Jones's Silver Sparrow (Algonquin), this is not your typical single-parent household: Dana's dad and mom are married, after all. The thing is, they're a "secret family" because he's also married to another woman and has another daughter across town. Written in the voices of Dana and her half-sister, Chaurisse, this buoyant novel never succumbs to TV-movie mawkishness; Dana, despite the situation, is full of perverse wisdom and proud joy. ("Life, you see, is all about knowing things," she surmises. "Yes, we have suffered, but we never doubted that we enjoyed at least one peculiar advantage... I knew about Chaurisse; she didn't know about me.") Even when the two girls meet, the bigamist father is exposed, and lives unravel, Jones's skill for wry understatement never wavers. As Dana explains: "People say, that which doesn't kill you makes you stronger. But they are wrong. What doesn't kill you, doesn't kill you. That's all you get." 
— Sara Nelson