Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Where the Line Bleeds: Yes, they conformed to character, but these two traded skins like any set of twins

What is this? A review? An actual review? I know, it's been a while.

After reading Jesmyn Ward's latest book, Sing, Unburied, Sing I had an opportunity to receive a copy of one of her earlier works in exchange for an honest review.
The story is a character study of the twins Christoph and Joshua, from a rural town on the Mississippi Gulf coast. Raised by their grandmother Ma-Mee after their mother went to Atlanta and their father slipped further into drugs. The book opens with the boys graduating from high school, hoping to get some sort of job to support their grandmother. Their ambitions are modest, shaped by the world they know. They apply all around town, at fast food joints and the dock, with never a thought that they won't be working together. But Joshua gets a job while Christoph isn't so lucky, causing a rift between the two that goes mostly unspoken. Though really much of their communication goes without words, so it makes sense that their argument would be silent as well.

Ma-Mee senses the distance and hurt from the boys but all she can wish is the boys were younger.

Christoph goes more and more despondent as the days go by and the phone stays quiet, as he goes another day without a job, without contributing to the house. Eventually he takes up his cousin's offer to start dealing pot, a secret he keeps from Joshua.

The jacket description says something about a confrontation with their father Sandman either saving or damning the twins. I won't tell you what happens but I will tell you this happens in roughly the last 5-10% of the book. Most of it is the quiet day-to-day lives of the twins, flirting and getting their hair braided and getting high and playing basketball.

Understand this is not a complaint about the book, just a warning that if you're looking for action you should go elsewhere. That isn't to say that I wasn't sucked in; I wanted to know what was going to happen, even when what was happening was mostly a slow burn. Ward has a lyrical quality to her writing, though I unfortunately didn't highlight too many passages to use as examples. But I do have at least one and it's pretty good so enjoy
The sun would not leave them: even after it set, it left a residue of heat in the evening. Christoph, stone-drunk under the barebulb lights strung between the trees at Felicia's party later that night, thought the blanketing heat was a vestigial presence, something made even more present by its absence.
I may like Sing, Unburied, Sing better but this was still an excellent read one I was happy to be able to read. It was a book outside my comfort zone, populated by characters I don't read about often.

Gif rating:
Title quote from page 4

Ward, Jesmyn. Where the Line Bleeds. Scribner, 2006. NetGalley