This was a highly readable and masterful character-driven narrative.
We follow a family as they go to pick up the father from Parchman Prison, and switch between the perspectives of the mother and son mainly to progress this narrative. The Mississippi prison quite literally haunts this family, and through magical realism Ward brings the voices of Parchman back to life. There isn’t much plot movement in the present day narrative, but the throwbacks to the late 1940s in Parchman are haunting, lyrical and incredibly moving. There is so much depth and commentary to what Ward writes about, and she captures race and family and home in the South with such an honest voice.
I felt like I was being led through the scenes with these characters, felt the dryness in my throat with Jojo, the dirt in my mouth with Richie, and the sun bearing down on the Mississippi landscape throughout it all. The sense of place throughout was so well done and made for an immersive reading experience.
The narrative that broke my heart the most was River – the complexity and brutalities within his lifetime are heart wrenching yet so beautifully written.
I now want to read EVERYTHING that Ward has written!