Kristan Hoffman - Writing Dreams Into Reality
Mon Jun 11 2012

SILVER SPARROW by Tayari Jones

Please note: My “Reading Reflections” are not reviews. They are simply my thoughts in response to certain passages.

Silver SparrowSILVER SPARROW was my book club’s most recent selection. I knew nothing about it going in, which sometimes I think is the best way to read a book. This isn’t a feel-good story, so it’s hard to be like, “Omg I loved this!!” But I did really enjoy the writing, and I was impressed by the complexity of the characters and their actions.

She is gifted with language and is able to layer difficult details in such a way that the result is smooth as water. She is a magician who can make the whole world feel like a dizzy illusion. The truth is a coin she pulls from behind your ear. (5)

To me, this is what good writing does. It gifts you with impossibilities that are at once both dazzling and familiar. An unexpected and perfect analogy, a lovely turn of phrase. Images and ideas that were hiding inside you, revealed by someone else’s words. All as silky and natural as the wind. If that’s not magic, then I don’t know what is.

When did I first discover that although I was an only child, my father was not my father and mine alone? I really can’t say. It’s something that I’ve known for as long as I’ve known that I had a father. (6)

My father wasn’t a bigamist like the one in SILVER SPARROW, but he did have a wife and two daughters before my mother and me. I can’t remember being told, but I also can’t remember a time that I didn’t know. (I do remember thinking as a young girl that Phoenix, where my half-sisters lived, was just the name of the apartment complex with dark red awnings down the street from us.)

In spite of all the differences between the family in SILVER SPARROW and ours, I found it fascinating to glimpse into the mental and emotional headspace of the daughter who didn’t get her father full-time. Did my half-sisters resent me the way Dana resented Chaurisse? Did they also long to know me? Would we have been friends? And how do these complex, contradictory feelings compare to the ones that “normal” siblings have?

Whether or not I ever get the answers to these questions, it’s thinking about them that makes me grow. That’s the point and the power of fiction, after all.

(Note: Whatever issues there were in the past, my impression is that our family has done a good job working through them, especially in the past decade or so. I credit my middle half-sister in particular for opening the dialogue between everyone and pushing us all to become closer.)

(Also: She actually reads this blog. Hiiiiiii.)

This was what it was to have a friend, someone who knew exactly who you were and didn’t blame you for it. (75)

This is why people love dogs. (And cats, I guess. Although I suspect that sometimes cats DO blame us for our faults…)

But seriously, if I look at my longtime friends, this is definitely a defining trait of those relationships. And that kind of acceptance is so… essential, so priceless, so healing.

On the other hand, if I look at the friendships that have failed in my life, I can see now that they lacked this. I was blamed for who I am. But the more important thing for me to reflect upon is, Did I blame them for who they were?

And now, a few great lines to close us out:

“Love is a maze. Once you get in it, you’re pretty much trapped. Maybe you manage to claw your way out, but then what have you accomplished?” (116)

“You got to learn how to listen sideways to what people are saying to get at what they really mean.” (260)

The truth is a strange thing. Like pornography, you know it when you see it. (303)

“Just because you were ignorant doesn’t make you innocent.” (327)

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. Sometimes, you just have to hope that’s enough. (340)

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5 Comments
  1. Sonje says:
    Mon Jun 11 2012 at 8:47 PM

    That last quote is hitting home for me quite a bit at the moment. I think I’m going to do a little copying and pasting of that bad boy.

  2. Juliann says:
    Tue Jun 12 2012 at 11:05 AM

    You made me want to read this. I’ll have to add it to the ever-growing list.

  3. Kristan says:
    Tue Jun 12 2012 at 3:34 PM

    Sonje-
    Yep, it’s a goodie.

    Juliann-
    Lol I know what you mean! I’ve been going through my shelves (both physical and digital) and trying to weed out books I know I’ll never get around to, b/c they’re starting to feel like to-do lists hovering over me!! I may do a giveaway here on the blog for a few titles, as well as a random “drop” of a few others around Cincinnati.

  4. Anthony Lee Collins says:
    Wed Jun 13 2012 at 11:13 AM

    I really like the one about ignorance not being innocence.

    (On the other hand, I disagree with the one about truth. If only it was that easy. :-) ).

    And the one about lstening sideways. One thing that always makes me cringe is reading something were all the characters say exactly what they mean.

  5. Melissa says:
    Thu Jun 14 2012 at 1:48 AM

    “This is why people love dogs. (And cats, I guess. Although I suspect that sometimes cats DO blame us for our faults…)”

    I think cats can’t be bothered to blame us for our faults.

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