esmyn really have not changed from where the

esmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing holds multiple important features that are
crucial to the context and interpretation of the novel. Throughout the entirety
of the novel, the feature of searching for home holds a steady presence. Through
the detailed character development in Ward’s novel, it is evident that the
search for one’s home is a journey that may not conclude with a physical
location, or a journey that has a conclusion at all.

theme of searching for home as a physical place is present through Michael’s
character, whom the family is picking up and bringing home from prison at
Parchman (Ward 59). Between his racist family members who have a strong dislike
for Leonie and the children and living at Leonie’s home, a home that is not
his, it is evident that Michael struggles with his lack of a physical place to
call home. This struggle is likely a major contributor to Michael returning to
his drug habits in the final chapter, implied by Jojo’s description of Leonie
and Michael as “fish-thin” (Ward 277). The final chapter of the novel shows
things really have not changed from where the novel initially began,
particularly that Leonie and Michael are just as irrelevant in the present
lives of Jojo and Kayla as they were in the beginning of the story. 

ghost of Richie is struggling immensely to continue to his home in the
afterlife, and the only way for him to do so is to learn the entire story of
his violent death. Because the only way for Richie to continue into the
afterlife is to find out how he died, he begs Jojo to have Pop finish the story
(Ward 231). Richie references “going home” multiple times throughout the novel,
one instance being when he told the scaly bird that once he learns his story, he
is coming home (Ward 191). At this point, Richie is hopeful he will be able to
finally move on in the afterlife once he hears the full story from Pop. However,
when Pop revealed he killed Richie instead of keeping his promise that he would
bring Richie home rather than turn him in to the authorities searching for him
after escaping from Parchman, Richie was shell-shocked (Ward 256). In the final
chapter, Richie has not gone home—in addition to many other ghosts who seem to
have had equally gruesome deaths and are struggling to move into the afterlife,
showing that the search for one’s true home may never really conclude, despite
knowing one’s entire story.  

Ward concludes her
novel with young Kayla telling all of the ghosts in the trees to “go home”
(Ward 284). The details in the final paragraphs of the novel show Kayla’s
unique relationship she has with the ghosts—she “sings, and the multitude of
ghosts lean forward, nodding. They smile with something like relief, something
like remembrance, something like ease” (Ward 284). The novel does not tell
readers if the ghosts ever do go home, but Kayla’s interaction with and the
calm and hopeful responses of the ghosts renders a sense hopefulness that
perhaps they will be able to continue to the afterlife and find their final

feeling of home is often difficult to obtain. Home for some may not even be a
physical place, but many will spend both their earthly life and afterlife in
search of it. Even though humans are naturally inclined to this search, the
journey is not an easy one, as shown through Michael in whom drug use impeded his
search for his physical home, while Richie could not advance into his forever
home of the afterlife because of the harrowing experiences that continue to
haunt him after death, even after learning the truth.