LEAVING ATLANTA by Tayari Jones
by Kizzy Preston
It is 1979, and children are disappearing from the city of Atlanta, Georgia. Leaving Atlanta, written by Tayari Jones, tells the story of these children who were kidnapped and murdered over a two year period.
I do not remember what first drew me to this book. Maybe it was the image of the lone girl jumping rope on an otherwise empty street on the book’s cover that intrigued me.
The novel is written in the voice of the children of Atlanta who lived in fear each day of being abducted and murdered, while still trying to go about the business of being a kid. Jones has a gift for writing in the voice of a child and being believable. As a reader, you are able to understand and feel every emotion these children felt. Whether they were going through seemingly silly trials of being disliked in class, or dealing with the horrible recognition that someone in the city was killing children who looked just like them, every scene rang true.
The most fascinating part is that Tayari Jones was a child during this tumultuous time in Atlanta’s history and she managed to weave herself into the narrative of the story without missing a beat. I have never seen an author place herself into her own novel. I thought Jones handled her own character brilliantly.
This was Jones’s first novel, which is now being produced as a film. She treated the subject matter with such care and love. The fact that there was a serial killer loose in Atlanta, Georgia was frightening, but the language that Jones used to tell the story is beautiful and haunting at the same time. The memory of the children murdered during that time seems to leap off of the page. Leaving Atlanta is the perfect ode to every one of them.
When I read the last word on the last page, I closed the book, held it to my chest, and exhaled.
This is a must read for anyone unfamiliar with Tayari Jones’s writing. To know her work is to love it.