Between 1979 and 1981, at least 28 black children and adults were killed by a serial killer in Atlanta. Tayari Jones grew up in Atlanta in this time period, and two of the murdered children were from her elementary school. Leaving Atlanta is about those experiences–what it’s like to be a black child in a time and place where black children are being snatched and murdered. It is a little bit like being afraid for your life, but it’s much more like going to school and worrying about the distinction between being from near the projects rather than actually from the projects.
Tayari Jones really is wonderful at writing for a child’s perspective. Tasha and Rodney and Octavia are frightened of the serial killer, but unlike their parents–and this, I think, is the point for Tayari Jones–they are not primarily frightened of the serial killer. Their days are filled with the things kids worry about and adults often forget to take seriously: avoiding conflict with the popular mean girls; having new dresses even if they don’t fit; where to sit at lunch.
You will note that I am not employing my usual review format for Leaving Atlanta (affiliate links: Amazon, B&N, Book Depository). This is related to the problem I had with it. As wonderful as Tayari Jones is at evoking the atmosphere of this time period in Atlanta, that is not enough to hang a whole book on. For me. I am not the woman to appreciate interlocking slice-of-life vignettes, be they ever so well drawn. I YEARN FOR ACTION.
(In books. In life I prefer to be generally sedate.)
I yearn for, anyway, a story. That is the way a book carries me along, and without it I am lost.
Tayari Jones fans, weigh in. If I liked her writing and liked her characters but craved more plot, will I enjoy Silver Sparrow and The Untelling? Yea or nay?