“This is the kind of world it is. The kind of world that gives you a blackberry plant, a doughy memory, and a child that can’t keep nothing down” (105). – Leonie
Jesmyn Ward’s novel set in rural Mississippi, is told from the perspective of three different narrators. Ward explores family and racial relations, poverty, drug abuse, and the oftentimes violent repercussions of racism.
Jojo is one of the sweetest most protective characters I’ve encountered. He worries and cares for his baby sister, he tries to emulate his kind-hearted grandfather, and worries about his sickly grandmother.
Jojo’s kindness is a perfect foil for the selfish meanness of his mother, Leonie. Leonie only cares about herself and Michael, the father of her children. The children are always an afterthought.
Richie, the final narrator, was a child of 12 in Parchman prison with Jojo’s grandfather, River. Richie is stuck and confused about what happened to him. When he sees the protective and kind Jojo, he knows this is River’s family.
The gruesome yet beautiful tone of this story is revealed in the first scene. Jojo helps his grandfather to kill and gut a goat on the morning of his 13th birthday. Jojo gets sick from the blood and the smell and is disappointed with himself but Pap just gently tells him to go back to the house and check on his sister and grandmother.