Wednesday, February 14, 2018


Jojo is a 13-year-old boy whose black mother, Leonie, is a druggie and whose white father, Michael, is in prison.  He lives with his grandparents in coastal Mississippi, along with his toddler sister, Kayla, but his unreliable mother pops in and out.  When Leonie learns that Michael is about to be released, she and her equally messed up friend Misty take the kids to Parchman to pick him up.  We know that this trip is going to be disastrous and just read with our fingers crossed that Jojo and Kayla survive.  There are two things that I did not like about this book.  First and foremost, it is, as you can imagine, immeasurably depressing.  To say that Leonie is a bad mother is an understatement, as she is both neglectful and abusive.  She only has eyes for Michael, and neither has any business being a parent.  The other aspect that did not appeal to me is the magical realism.  Two dead people are visible to some of the characters.  One is Given, Leonie’s brother, who was killed by Michael’s cousin.  Leonie has never recovered from his loss and seems to care more about him than her children, who are very much alive.  The other ghost is Richie, a boy who knew Jojo’s grandfather in prison and wants to get to the heart of what happened there.  I just really did not understand the significance of these ghosts and why they were necessary to the story.  There is some other voodoo (my word, not the author’s) going on, such as lucky talismans and graveyard stones, and I was OK with those, since they seemed to be perhaps indicative of the culture.  The ghosts, though, for me, detracted from the seriousness of the story and lent it an air of mythology that turned me off.   They even have full-on conversations with living characters.  Perhaps I would have been more accepting of silent ghosts.  In any case, I found her earlier novel, Salvage the Bones, to be a much better read.

No comments: