Chaurisse Witherspoon described certain people - naturally pretty girls who took their beauty to another level - as silver girls. When she encountered Dana Yarboro in the cosmetic aisle in a mall drugstore during an aborted shoplifting attempt, she immediately recognized her as a silver girl. Dana recognized Chaurisse too - as her half-sister. Chaurisse is drawn to a friendship with Dana; Dana is drawn to something a little different.
Tayari Jones' third novel, Silver Sparrow
, is an unusual take on a not-entirely-unusual story. Plenty of people drift into (or deliberately choose to have) affairs. Sometimes those affairs result in children. It's less common for the mother of one of those children to insist on marriage to the father while the father remains married to, and refuses to leave, his wife - who, by the way, is also expecting a baby. But marriage to James Witherspoon is what Gwen Yarboro wanted, and for years of Wednesday nights, she and her daughter Dana had James and his brother Raleigh with them as family; those were the nights that James' wife Laverne and daughter Chaurisse believed the men were working. While Gwen and Dana are constantly aware, and frequently resentful, of James' other family, Laverne and Chaurisse have no idea one exists.
Jones tells the first half of the story through Dana's first-person narration, and then switches to Chaurisse's voice before bringing the two girls - teens born just a few months apart - together. It's an effective construct that allows the reader to have the same secret knowledge about Chaurisse that Dana has before meeting her; once we do meet her, that knowledge filters the reading of her side of the story. For me, that added both poignancy and a sense of foreboding to the second half of the book - it was pretty clear that before it was all over, everyone was going to know the whole truth.
Jones' writing keeps Silver Sparrow
from being as melodramatic as its plot suggests it might be, and telling the story through the daughters is one way she achieves that. She has also created memorable characters, each of whom can evoke the reader's sympathy even when they're not entirely likable, and given both of her narrators distinctive voices and perspectives without significantly changing her writing style when she shifts. Her depiction of 1980s Atlanta feels true to time and place. Silver Sparrow
was an absorbing read, and Id like to read more from Tayari Jones.