It took me a while to get into the groove of this book, but once I was in, I was totally hooked. It is a book which sits well with Hillbilly Elegy which I read recently. Both books about poverty in America and with similar casts of characters. I think Jesmyn Ward is a wonderful writer, she has nailed the feelings of a mother, Leonie, cast adrift, torn between the love of her children and the love of her man. The internal conflicts she feels are so hard to read.
Most of the story takes place in a car. It is on it’s way to Parchman, a prison where Michael who is the father of Jojo and Michaela has been incarcerated. The trip in the hot car, where Michaela is being sick constantly is really horrendous. The stench, is all pervading. Jojo takes care of Michaela, with Leonie caught up in getting them there and the drama that entails, he is playing a role he is too young to take on. He is such a wonderful boy, so kind, so caring and so seemingly accepting of the horrible things that are happening to him on this journey.
It is a family drama, a story of the ghosts of the past which haunt the present. Of class and insecurity, drugs and mistrust. An uncomfortable read but ultimately one that will stay with me for a very long time.