I love the dedication at the front of this book. It’s to Tayari Jones’s parents, who, she writes, ‘to the best of my knowledge are married only to each other.’
That made me smile because Jones clearly knows a great deal about bigamy and the web of deceit that is spun out of a decision to make not one but two marriages, simultaneously and in societies like ours, illegally. I somehow think if her father had wed two women, Jones would have clocked the tell-tale signs.
In Silver Sparrow we find James Witherspoon, a man who for years has led a complex double life. He has two families – one of them living completely out in the open and without subterfuge; the other, a rigorously-guarded secret. Until his daughters from his private and public worlds meet each other.
This is Dana’s story and she tells it like it is from the first page.
‘My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist. He was already married ten years when he first clamped eyes on my mother… James’s [other] marriage was never hidden from us. James is what I call him. His other daughter, Chaurisse, the one who grew up in the house with him, she calls him Daddy.’
So, Dana knows all about Chaurisse. Dana’s mother knows all about Chaurisse – and her mother. But Chaurisse and her mother know nothing about Witherspoon’s second family.
And then the two girls meet up and even become friends. Only Dana knows what it is that connects them, entwines them, even threatens them. The consequences of that friendship are, at first, un-guessable. But Tayari Jones takes us there. This is a fine, explosive novel.