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Salvage the Bones PDF, ePub eBook Winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Fiction A hurricane is building over the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, and Esch's father is growing concerned. A hard drinker, largely absent, he doesn't show concern for much else. Esch and her three brothers are stocking food, but there isn't much to save. Lately, Esch can't keep down Winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Fiction A hurricane is building over the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, and Esch's father is growing concerned. A hard drinker, largely absent, he doesn't show concern for much else. Esch and her three brothers are stocking food, but there isn't much to save. Lately, Esch can't keep down what food she gets; she's fourteen and pregnant. Her brother Skeetah is sneaking scraps for his prized pitbull's new litter, dying one by one in the dirt, while brothers Randall and Junior try to stake their claim in a family long on child's play and short on parenting. As the twelve days that comprise the novel's framework yield to the final day and Hurricane Katrina, the unforgettable family at the novel's heart—motherless children sacrificing for each other as they can, protecting and nurturing where love is scarce—pulls itself up to struggle for another day. A wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty, "Salvage the Bones" is muscled with poetry, revelatory, and real.

30 review for Salvage the Bones

  1. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    There is a moment in the beginning of this book when I want to put the book down (the birthing of puppies). There is a point in the middle when I breathe raggedly, as though from a gut punch (Ward’s description of the dog fight). And there are long stretches at the end of this book when I cannot take my horrified eyes from the page, when I feel my insides crumbling and my heart breaking and my memories reeling and I know I have read something extraordinary. Jesmyn Ward just gives us words, but wo There is a moment in the beginning of this book when I want to put the book down (the birthing of puppies). There is a point in the middle when I breathe raggedly, as though from a gut punch (Ward’s description of the dog fight). And there are long stretches at the end of this book when I cannot take my horrified eyes from the page, when I feel my insides crumbling and my heart breaking and my memories reeling and I know I have read something extraordinary. Jesmyn Ward just gives us words, but words like none other has written. She has put them together in a way that creates a world apart but with all the love, pain, pathos, hope, fear, and loyalty that we will recognize from the finest examples of our literature. When she describes the color and texture of a man’s arm, or the watery pressure of a new pregnancy, or the terror of discovering rising water through the floorboards of one’s living room, Jesmyn Ward has caught that thing as though it were alive. When I try to say in a few words the story of this novel, everything I write is inadequate. A poor family lives outside a town but near the coast in Mississippi. Our narrator is fourteen with hair that frames her head “like a pillow.” She has three brothers, a father that drinks too much, and several paramours but one in particular. Katrina hits and we experience the storm. This is classic literature, and, difficult as it may seem at first, wholly appropriate for teens. It is a little like saying A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah is a teen title. That book, about a teen forced into soldiering in Sierra Leone, is similarly hard-hitting. It might be better for our teens to know than not to know. They are exposed to so much anyway--a little reality might improve their outlook. I wouldn't "require" this novel, but I would add it to reading lists. Teens can do much worse than experience the exquisite sense of language in this wholly original work.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paromjit

    The outstanding writing abilities of Jesamyn Ward are indisputable in this emotionally visceral powerhouse of a novel, epic in scope, pitching the indomitable spirit of a family to survive, against all the odds, with the destructive and devastating monster of nature that is Hurricane Katrina, wreaking havoc on the Mississipi coastal town of Bois Sauvage. Esch is the black 14 year old narrator, pregnant, the only girl surroundes by males. Mother died in childbirth, and father is a hard drinking m The outstanding writing abilities of Jesamyn Ward are indisputable in this emotionally visceral powerhouse of a novel, epic in scope, pitching the indomitable spirit of a family to survive, against all the odds, with the destructive and devastating monster of nature that is Hurricane Katrina, wreaking havoc on the Mississipi coastal town of Bois Sauvage. Esch is the black 14 year old narrator, pregnant, the only girl surroundes by males. Mother died in childbirth, and father is a hard drinking man, often absent from family life. They are a family that has lived generations in poverty and squalor, residing in a junkyard. The narrative spans twelve days, in which Ward establishes the gritty and brutal circumstances of the family and its characters, attempting to build up supplies and water, limited by the options open to them, and the coming of and aftermath of Katrina. Esch has been enjoying sex for a while, driven by her search for love, but is drawn to one person in particular. Her brother, Skeetah is trying to keep alive the puppies of his pitbull, China, but failing. Randall has dreams of basketball as his path out of poverty, and Junior has no memories of his mother. There are harrowing depictions of dogfights which are desperately hard to stomach. Amidst this dysfunctional family, conflict is rife amongst the siblings. It is abundantly clear that they are ill equipped for Katrina, but their love for each other binds them together as a force of nature in its own right as they look out for each other in their battle to survive. It is this that provides a glimmer of hope in what would otherwise be a relentlessly bleak if atmospheric picture of marginalised poor black communities, with nowhere else to go, viewed as of little consequence by the rest of society, feared and abandoned, and left to fend for themselves. Without doubt, this is often a troubling, brutal and challenging read, but the compelling and authentic force driving the narrative makes reading it an infinitely rewarding experience. The phenomenal quality of the vibrant, poetic and lyrical prose had me feeling as if I was there with the Batiste family, living precariously, and facing all its travails. Ward gives us richly detailed descriptions, deploying powerful imagery and creates characters that have the reader emotionally invested in the book, I was rooting for Esch all the way. This is a brilliant and uncompromising read which has indelibly imprinted itself on my mind and my imagination, although I accept this novel might not be for everyone. Highly recommended! Many thanks to Bloomsbury for an ARC.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    The audiobook narrator....by Cherise Booth, is outstanding! Author Jesmyn Ward's writing is beautiful- lyrical....lovely as can be!!!! Between the Jesmyn's usage of language- poetic - sometimes calming the issues at hand. and Cherise's engaging voice - "Salvage The Bones" - feels 'real'....tragic - and completely heartbreaking. My heart was racing the last couple of chapters.....where it was almost stopped at beginning. - Two extreme emotions from start to finish. Most of the book takes place a few The audiobook narrator....by Cherise Booth, is outstanding! Author Jesmyn Ward's writing is beautiful- lyrical....lovely as can be!!!! Between the Jesmyn's usage of language- poetic - sometimes calming the issues at hand. and Cherise's engaging voice - "Salvage The Bones" - feels 'real'....tragic - and completely heartbreaking. My heart was racing the last couple of chapters.....where it was almost stopped at beginning. - Two extreme emotions from start to finish. Most of the book takes place a few days before Hurricane Katrina....set in a small town in Mississippi. A very haunting - often gut wrenching story - about a black poor family. There is loss. There is love.......and this is a hard book to shake- or review..... because nothing I say feels it can describe the experience. Esch, is 14 years old. She's the only girl in the family, as her mother died years ago. She tends to follow her three brothers Skeetah, Randall, and Junior, around as much as possible. Their father is an alcoholic- but when not drinking he is preparing for Katrina. A believable narrator, Esch describes how she easily 'surrendered' to sex. She was having sex with many of her brothers friends - but has her eyes on one of the boys - Mandy. Esch describes being pregnant as if representing all the painful - struggles of all young women everywhere who have ever been in her shoes. Well, at least that's how I felt. It was so real - and such a sad situation. Plus, I cringed with the dog fighting themes......but there is a purpose for them. Skeetah tries to save his dog, China's, pit bull's litter but they were sick...not an easy scene to take in...yet - again -- themes keep tie together up to the end... Randal, the other brother, is a gifted basketball player who dreams of having a professional career. ......but it's Esch's story as the only girl in this family who I still am left thinking about. For three days 'before' the hurricane hits we see this family, 'all' trying to survive challenging situations and poverty.... -and then THE BIG REALITY HITS... survival at a whole new level. A very powerful book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    jo

    when i finished the book, i realized that the hurricane's presence in it had been much stronger than i had realized at first. even though katrina occupies only two chapters, it seems as if the prose breathes hurricane weather in and out in every chapter -- through water, heat, stifling humidity, the stillness of the air and then the non-stillness of the air as the trees sway in a wind that gives no relief, hunger, dirt, restless sleep. you know it if you've been in a hurricane, but i think havin when i finished the book, i realized that the hurricane's presence in it had been much stronger than i had realized at first. even though katrina occupies only two chapters, it seems as if the prose breathes hurricane weather in and out in every chapter -- through water, heat, stifling humidity, the stillness of the air and then the non-stillness of the air as the trees sway in a wind that gives no relief, hunger, dirt, restless sleep. you know it if you've been in a hurricane, but i think having followed one on tv may be enough. the tv, though, doesn't give much of a sense of the tremendous heat. the heat and the humidity are enormous. so this book is pretty amazing -- brave, really, because it tells, it seems to me, a rather unconventional story using the weather as the thing the book is about, the atmosphere the book's events are wrapped in, and a metaphor for various elements of the narrative. this is a book that is rife with metaphors, but they didn't seem heavy to me; also, i don't mind heavy. the story is unconventional because these are people who are truly at the margins of representation. poor, rural black people appear in movies and books only as color. if they play any role at all other than that, it is to be bit characters in genre fiction. there are just not a lot of places where you get to see rural black folks in their communities as fully developed characters with rich, interesting and complex lives. my personal experience proves nothing, of course, but i think i've encountered these people only in slave literature -- and then they were not these people at all (i'm mentioning them only because they were black, rural, and poor)! so really this is interesting and beautiful because it opens up a space for other people to be met, seen, and known. it enlarges the scope of representation. it enriches the cultural village. there is a huge blank space in representation and this book helps fill it. and these lives are interesting. they are fascinating. they are rich with love, desire, family, courage, survival, communication, growing up, trying to be good, trying to do good. they are not alien lives. they are intense and nuanced lives minus air conditioning, square meals, and working televisions. this should not need to be said and maybe my saying it is offensive, but i think many of us just don't realize it because we never see it. poor rural black people are just about as othered as people get in our society. i think i feel more connected to poor black folks in other countries than to poor black folks in the united states. if our culture does anything about poor rural (and urban) black communities, it teaches us to be afraid of them. this book kicks this fear in the teeth. i think, by the way, that jesmyn ward did the exact right thing in not trying to represent accents and regionalisms in the writing, because that would have reproposed the othering. there is so much more than can be said about this book -- in fact, i have spoken not at all about what happens in it. but we are discussing this in january 2012 over at Literary Fiction by People of Color so there will be plenty of time to get into the intricacies of the story when the discussion gets started (link to come). what i wanted to say here was mostly that this is a beautiful and brave novel, and that everyone should read it, and then maybe a movie should be made of it, and that people should start getting to know each other beyond the heinous stereotypes hammered into us by the stupid news.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    I couldn't dull the edges and fall in love with my characters and spare them. Life doesn't spare us. -Jesmyn Ward The words in this novel are wounds with fragile scabs. This story is the beat of a wounded girl's heart; it bleeds on the page and hurts to read. These words are tears that have not been shed, so they build up on the inside and fill up buckets of anguish: I learned how to cry so that almost no tears leaked out of my eyes, so that I swallowed the hot salty water of them and felt them ru I couldn't dull the edges and fall in love with my characters and spare them. Life doesn't spare us. -Jesmyn Ward The words in this novel are wounds with fragile scabs. This story is the beat of a wounded girl's heart; it bleeds on the page and hurts to read. These words are tears that have not been shed, so they build up on the inside and fill up buckets of anguish: I learned how to cry so that almost no tears leaked out of my eyes, so that I swallowed the hot salty water of them and felt them running down my throat. Hurricane Katrina is twelve days away. Enter The Pit, a clearing of trailer homes in the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi. Junk cars, used appliances, a misplaced RV, and fighting pit bulls. Hear from Esch, a motherless child who searches for love in sex, a child with a drunk and physically abusive father, a girl child who lives with three brothers in a place as dark as night, with some semblance of love to shine through. Here, love is distorted, perception skewed. The rest of the world exists on the other side of The Pit, where it averts its face. Hurricane Katrina knows this. She targets them with her fighting winds, these downtrodden survivors, but in them she meets her match. For survivors are powerless but strong. And in The Pit, these survivors know all about fighting back. They fight to live, fight to love; maybe this is what the book is about - the unrelenting will to survive, to fight despite the obstacle. Even in the middle of scenes that made me cringe, I saw Struggle stand bold and brave (especially through the character Skeet). These words feel tender yet tough; gritty yet gentle. And love exists here, askew and blemished, still, it exists.

  6. 4 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    Being Vulnerable Mississippi is a strange place. To say it is conservative is a euphemism for... well you make a judgment: It took about 130 years for the State legislature to approve the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution which made slavery illegal (1995 I believe)*. I doubt Mississippi is on many bucket lists. Salvage the Bones explains why it really isn’t a tourist destination.- in addition to the horrid climate. The family Batiste exists on a knife edge, “starving, fighting, stru Being Vulnerable Mississippi is a strange place. To say it is conservative is a euphemism for... well you make a judgment: It took about 130 years for the State legislature to approve the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution which made slavery illegal (1995 I believe)*. I doubt Mississippi is on many bucket lists. Salvage the Bones explains why it really isn’t a tourist destination.- in addition to the horrid climate. The family Batiste exists on a knife edge, “starving, fighting, struggling” in the piney woods of Southern Mississippi. Any mis-step can lead to disaster. They are vaguely aware of this vulnerability but do little to protect themselves. Their preparations for a threatening hurricane are more symbolic than effective. Their everyday lives are lived warily but with a haphazard casualness they seem to understand as courage; perhaps it is. It is impossible to tell if they are stoical or merely submissively resigned to overwhelming forces. “It’s all contaminated,” one of the brothers says. “Everything.” And it is. The plot of land they live on, the sand pit they swim in, the various domestic animals they keep, the entire existential scheme in which they find themselves. The naïveté of 14 year old Esch, the narrator, is startling. Her life is emotionally and physically brutal, made only worse by her fantasies of Greek heroes and their lovers. Even these classical myths are contaminated by the facts of her life. “So now we pick at the house like mostly eaten leftovers.” The grandparents’ house is progressively cannibalized to make inadequate improvements to their own deteriorating dwellings. The family conspires to destroy their own history plank by plank. Their “present is washed clean of memory like vegetables washed clean of the dirt they grow in.” They have lived in the coastal lowlands for generations but they have fewer roots than the palmettos they live among. “We live in the black heart of Bois Sauvage.” Is that a place of refuge or a prison? It’s protection against the alien “white Bois” and the folk who “live out away in the pale arteries.” The family come across white folk at school and the supermarket but they don’t speak except in emergencies. A sort of apartheid of the heart prevails. There is mutual non-recognition. “These are my options, and they narrow to none.” This applies not just for the pregnant Esch but also for the entire family. There are no options, no real choices they have to make other than to submit or not to what’s presented to them. Hope is not something they engage in. They move on from one imminent aspiration to the next: “Always crazy for something.” They take unnecessary risks because... well they just do. At least something unexpected might result, something different. Mostly it’s something worse. The spine of the story is a vicious pit-bull terrier whose litter of puppies is as threatened by her as every other living thing within range of her muzzle. She is like the impending storm: still and silent until suddenly deadly. The dog is male machismo made flesh and bone, the psychological anima expressed in reality. It’s function is to fight and maim and cause pain so the male doesn’t have to do it himself. But as most men find out sooner or later, the anima is very high maintenance and entirely unreliable. Esch’s parallel animus is not to be trifled with either - she’s not going to let some Jason treat her like an hapless Medea. The black Athena inside her will fight for survival. Like the storm “she made things happen that had never happened before.” Whatever Bois Sauvage had been before the storm - the demarcations between black and white, the male competitions, the designation of rich and poor - no longer exist. “Suddenly there is a great split between now and then.” A way to start over... perhaps. It is Mississippi after all. * See messages 2 & 5 below for clarification of this point.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Maureen

    Unfortunately, I felt like I was reading an extended undergrad creative writing piece, not an award winning author. The language is just so hard to get through-everything is a simile. I counted 3 uses of "like" to describe someone or something in one short paragraph. I had to slog my way through it, but I did find there were parts that intrigued me more than others and did want to read on, thus not a total dislike.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    This book takes place over the course of twelve days and in those twelve days a lot happens. A dog, China, becomes a Mother in a very detailed birthing sequence, a young teen, Esch, learns she is going to be a Mother, and Motherless children prepare for a Hurricane in between attending dog fights, fighting among themselves and caring for their drunk father. Esch and her brothers live in Bois Sauvage, Mississippi. Their Mother passed away after giving birth and they are left in the care of their This book takes place over the course of twelve days and in those twelve days a lot happens. A dog, China, becomes a Mother in a very detailed birthing sequence, a young teen, Esch, learns she is going to be a Mother, and Motherless children prepare for a Hurricane in between attending dog fights, fighting among themselves and caring for their drunk father. Esch and her brothers live in Bois Sauvage, Mississippi. Their Mother passed away after giving birth and they are left in the care of their father who is mainly absent from their lives. The children are left to their own devices and raise each other. Esch is fourteen years old and has just discovered that she is pregnant. She has a huge crush on the father but the harsh realities of life are that not everyone you love....loves you back. Skeetah is attempting to save China's puppies after they are born. He loves his dog - China is his pride and joy. She is a pit bull known in the dog fighting circuit. There are some dog fighting scenes which may be disturbing to some readers. Randall is a basketball player who dreams of going pro one day. Junior is the youngest and is basically looked after by his older siblings. Teen pregnancy, puppies being born, dog fighting, a drunk father, poverty and a hurricane make for a raw and gritty book. This family has it rough but they come together and support each other. Even their father is able to pull himself together enough to try and prepare for Hurricane Katrina. The beauty in this book is in the beautiful writing, that and the love of a boy for his dog. This book is depressing and sad but also full of familial love. The descriptions are vivid and detailed. See more of my reviews at www.openbookpost.com

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michael Ferro

    With 2017 being the most deadly year in U.S. history for hurricanes, and Jesmyn Ward ONCE AGAIN winning the National Book Award for "Sing, Unburied Sing," I figured it was well past time for me to read her debut novel, "Salvage the Bones." And my goodness... what the hell took me so long? Ward has crafted one of the most spellbinding novels with this effort. The book exudes that southern heat that comes in the hours and days before a monster storm, the vivid landscape of this rural, poor fictiona With 2017 being the most deadly year in U.S. history for hurricanes, and Jesmyn Ward ONCE AGAIN winning the National Book Award for "Sing, Unburied Sing," I figured it was well past time for me to read her debut novel, "Salvage the Bones." And my goodness... what the hell took me so long? Ward has crafted one of the most spellbinding novels with this effort. The book exudes that southern heat that comes in the hours and days before a monster storm, the vivid landscape of this rural, poor fictional Mississippi town is alive on every page. And Ward's 14-year-old female protagonist named Esch might be one of the most dynamic and realistic characters I've read in some time. This is a novel, though fiction, that should be shared with so many in our polarized culture. As America braces for the likelihood of many more superstorms to come in the future, it's vitally important that more people read works like these that build the empathy we are so lacking in today's culture. We're not going to stop mindlessly polluting or stupidly discrediting global warming—at least not with this administration—but we can learn to understand the experiences of one another. "Salvage the Bones" is a taut, intelligent, and exciting book that I adored; I can't wait to see what Ward has up next.

  10. 5 out of 5

    PattyMacDotComma

    3.5★ “. . . he wanted the other me. The pulpy ripe heart. The sticky heart the boys saw through my boyish frame, my dark skin, my plain face. . . . I’d let boys have it because for a moment, I was Psyche or Eurydice or Daphne. I was beloved.” Home is on land they call the Pit outside the fictional Mississippi coastal town of Bois Sauvage. Esch’s family is poor, rough, and dirty. She loves mythology and escapes by reading and imagining. She tells us her first time having sex was when she was twelve 3.5★ “. . . he wanted the other me. The pulpy ripe heart. The sticky heart the boys saw through my boyish frame, my dark skin, my plain face. . . . I’d let boys have it because for a moment, I was Psyche or Eurydice or Daphne. I was beloved.” Home is on land they call the Pit outside the fictional Mississippi coastal town of Bois Sauvage. Esch’s family is poor, rough, and dirty. She loves mythology and escapes by reading and imagining. She tells us her first time having sex was when she was twelve. She’s now about 16, and there is a collection of older boys who wander in and out of the story, a couple of whom slept with her in the beginning but whom she’s now rejected in favour of the one she has a crush on, Manny. He’s tossing a basketball outside with her brother. “I wondered if Medea felt this way before she walked out to meet Jason for the first time, like a hard wind come through her and set her to shaking. The insects singing as they ring the red dirt yard, the bouncing ball, Daddy’s blues coming from his truck radio, they all called me out the door.” Manny is a cad of the first order – we don’t like him. He lives with his girlfriend, but Esch is always handy for a secret quickie. She is determined to get him to kiss her and show some affection. I kept being reminded of a cartoon I saw once, where one girl says to another, “Your boyfriend takes advantage of you. Why do you put up with it?” The other replies “At least he chooses me to take advantage of.” Esch values herself not at all. She tells us about her brothers, her father, her late mother, her grandparents. We see her only through her telling. Her mother died having her little brother, and her father doesn’t really know what to do with her. She’s closest to Skeetah, the older brother who is totally devoted to his vicious (except to him) fighting bitch, China, and later to her puppies. People and clothes are filthy, sweaty, smelly. Unpleasant, yes, but real and true. Esch kept wandering back down sidetracks to tell us about memories or fill us in on background, and I got impatient. It was her escape, no doubt, but I was worrying along with her father about the hurricane warnings! I also found myself beginning to skim long sections where the boys are playing basketball or the dogs are fighting, and I mean FIGHTING. The best part was the hurricane – both horrific and terrific. That was absolutely compelling and page-turning. There’s no doubt Ward can write and will continue to win awards. I particularly enjoyed a section after the story finished which included an interview with her from NPR's All Things Considered (November 17, 2011) about her own experience with Hurricane Katrina after having been told so many times about her parents’ experience with Hurricane Camille in 1969. “For my parents, the storm was called Camille, and on August 17, 1969, it made landfall. . . . The wind sounded like a train , my mother said every time she told me the story, and even though the metaphor made sense, I couldn’t hear it. . . . My storm was Katrina. . . . The sky turned orange and the wind sounded like fighter jets. So that’s what my mother meant: I understood then how that hurricane, like Camille, had unmade the world, tree by water by house by person. Even in language, it reduced us to improbable metaphor.” No wonder she writes a good (bad) storm. Terrifying. I enjoyed her recent novel more, Sing, Unburied, Sing (which I also reviewed. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) Thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Publishing for the review copy from which I’ve quoted (so something may have changed).

  11. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    4.5 stars ~ Salvage the Bones is a simple, yet powerful story about a poor black family living in Bois Sauvage, Mississippi. The story is broken into twelve chapters - the twelve days leading up to Hurricane Katrina. The narrator is fifteen year old Esch. Much of the story centers around her coming of age - being motherless and among all males. Esch is living in poverty (on a junkyard called The Pit) with a father who drinks too much, one brother raising a pit bull for fighting, and two other br 4.5 stars ~ Salvage the Bones is a simple, yet powerful story about a poor black family living in Bois Sauvage, Mississippi. The story is broken into twelve chapters - the twelve days leading up to Hurricane Katrina. The narrator is fifteen year old Esch. Much of the story centers around her coming of age - being motherless and among all males. Esch is living in poverty (on a junkyard called The Pit) with a father who drinks too much, one brother raising a pit bull for fighting, and two other brothers as they brace for the hurricane in their path - each living with challenges of their own. This is a story about familial love - each doing the best they can, living in wretched conditions and the lengths they will go to protect and sacrificing for one another. Knowing that the author, Jesmyn Ward, lived through Hurricane Katrina makes the story even more meaningful to me. Having just left New Orleans the week before Katrina hit, I sat watching it all on television in disbelief and terrible sadness. I couldn't fathom why these people didn't evacuate. This story really opened my eyes - and my heart! For so many, they had no choice. They had no where to go; no way to leave. Ward answers a lot of these question and gives her own account of those days during Hurricane Katrina. She also write about pit bulls, as her family owned one that was meaningful to her. I absolutely love Ward’s style of writing. The lyrical, poetic prose she uses awakens all my senses when reading a book and adds so much depth. Maybe that’s not always a pleasant thing....as there are a lot of unsavory moments in the book. Others have not always been as successful at this style of writing for me, but I find her to use it brilliantly. I found myself pausing numerous times just to visualize and re-read her words. Just lovely, even in this savage situation. Ward says she used the word Salvage in the title because it sounded so much like savage, "to remind readers what this family, and people like this family, are left with after tragedy." These characters, and their story, will stay with me a long, long while!! *There are some horrific animal scenes in this book - one I admit to skimming heavily. This was a Traveling Sisters read and some could not finish the book due to them, so be forewarned. I am not sure I find these scenes necessary, so I took off a half star for that. I can only think Ward wanted us to see that we should not judge pit bulls anymore than we should judge those who were not able to evacuate the hurricane. Possibly, that was her message?

  12. 5 out of 5

    JanB

    4.5 stars. Poignant and powerful, the story is narrated by fourteen-year-old Esche, who lives in Mississippi with her three brothers and father. Their mother died in childbirth, and the family is struggling both financially and emotionally. They survive the only way they know how. Many of the ways are heartbreaking and would be easy to judge: raising pit bulls, dog fighting, a young teenager looking for love in all the wrong places with all the wrong people, and a father who drinks and is largel 4.5 stars. Poignant and powerful, the story is narrated by fourteen-year-old Esche, who lives in Mississippi with her three brothers and father. Their mother died in childbirth, and the family is struggling both financially and emotionally. They survive the only way they know how. Many of the ways are heartbreaking and would be easy to judge: raising pit bulls, dog fighting, a young teenager looking for love in all the wrong places with all the wrong people, and a father who drinks and is largely absent. But Jesmyn’s command of the language and poetic prose allowed me a peek into their hearts and minds and I felt nothing but compassion. The touching love and strong bond between Esche's brother, Skeetah, and his dog, China, and the bond and love between the siblings were expressed beautifully. Quite simply, the author touched my heart and I was brought to tears more than once. Amidst the poverty and the grief, a very real danger is on its way: Hurricane Katrina. The book covers the 12 days leading up to the storm. I could feel the unrelenting heat and humidity of Mississippi, and I felt the terror of the storm. Ward has an uncanny ability to put her reader in the midst of the action and feel what her characters feel. The chapters when Katrina makes landfall are riveting. The author and her family survived Katrina, so she writes with authenticity on the subject. I appreciated the afterward where she talks of her experience. The book is extremely gritty and some parts were difficult to read, especially the dog fighting (I skimmed those pages). But in the midst of the ugliness is beauty in the love and bond between the siblings, and the bond between Skeetah and his dog. Beauty and ugliness can coexist. No review I write could possibly do justice to this book. The characters took hold of my heart and wouldn’t let go. With a heavy heart, I was left contemplating their plight for days after I turned the last page. What is salvaged after such devastation? This family had so little in terms of material possessions, and they are far from the poor but noble long-suffering family often depicted in literature, but they do have their love and devotion to one another, imperfect though it is. Thankfully, the book ended on a hopeful note. * The gritty scenes with dog fighting were difficult but important for the plot. Normally this would have been enough for me to DNF, but I skimmed those pages and I was rewarded for my efforts. * I enjoyed reading this with the traveling sisters group. A few had to abandon it early due to the gritty scenes but a few of us hung in till the end and had an interesting discussion. For their blog and reviews of this and other books please visit https://twosisterslostinacoulee.com

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader

    Unfortunately, I couldn't finish this one. The writing was beautiful and it was a story of family which I love. This was a case of I should have read the synopsis. Sometimes I skip those so I can be surprised but the dog fighting and sick puppies were too much for me. I tried skipping those parts on the audio but I ended up having to skip too often. I will definitely read other books by this author because I like her style. Summer 2017 Read #20

  14. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    It is so exciting when I read a book that I know will be with me forever. Salvage the Bones seemed at first to be in the same vein as Beans of Egypt, Maine, Bastard Out of Carolina, or The Book of Ruth. *Except* the overall effect is quite different. Instead of violence and desperation Jesmyn Ward gives us sweetness, beauty, and anticipation. Her writing is gorgeous (as one of the characters is racing through the woods his legs are described as looking like black ribbons) and the story is a time It is so exciting when I read a book that I know will be with me forever. Salvage the Bones seemed at first to be in the same vein as Beans of Egypt, Maine, Bastard Out of Carolina, or The Book of Ruth. *Except* the overall effect is quite different. Instead of violence and desperation Jesmyn Ward gives us sweetness, beauty, and anticipation. Her writing is gorgeous (as one of the characters is racing through the woods his legs are described as looking like black ribbons) and the story is a timeless one: familial love and allegiance and impending doom/disaster (in this case, the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina). The way that Esch and her brothers love and nurture one another gives the reader a sense of optimism. And the use of Greek mythology to examine Esch's experiences and relationships is absolute.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    When the finalists for the National Book Award in Fiction were announced last month, I’m embarrassed to admit that I was among those critics grumbling about the obscurity of some of the authors (Andrew Krivak?), even some of the publishers (Lookout Books?). Partly, I was annoyed that novels I’ve adored this year (“Doc,” “State of Wonder”) didn’t make the cut, and partly I was operating under the time-tested prejudice that books I’ve read are always better than books I haven’t read. But one of the When the finalists for the National Book Award in Fiction were announced last month, I’m embarrassed to admit that I was among those critics grumbling about the obscurity of some of the authors (Andrew Krivak?), even some of the publishers (Lookout Books?). Partly, I was annoyed that novels I’ve adored this year (“Doc,” “State of Wonder”) didn’t make the cut, and partly I was operating under the time-tested prejudice that books I’ve read are always better than books I haven’t read. But one of the judges, a writer named Victor LaValle, whose critical opinions I admire, fired off a refreshingly assertive retort to people like me in Publishers Weekly. Denying that he and his fellow judges had ignored popular novels in hopes of making the public “eat their spinach,” he said, “These five books worked some special kind of magic on us. In the end, what’s any good reader really hoping for? That spark. That spell.” I’m happy to eat my words. And my spinach. I’ve just read another one of the so-called obscure finalists, “Salvage the Bones,” the second book from Alabama writer Jesmyn Ward, and it’ll be a long time before its magic wears off. This trim, fiercely poetic novel takes place in the fictional town of Bois Sauvage, Miss., in the 10 days leading up to Hurricane Katrina. The way that approaching storm compresses this story about devoted siblings recalls Jayne Anne Phillips’s “Lark and Termite,” which in 2009 was also a finalist for the National Book Award. But Ward is working on a more elemental level — no mystical sympathies between long-separated people, no kaleidoscopic impressions of the mentally impaired. On one level, “Salvage the Bones” is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. As the story opens, Esch realizes she’s pregnant by an older boy named Manny. “He was the sun,” she swoons. A junior in high school with a thirst for books, Esch is devouring Edith Hamilton’s “Mythology,” vibrating in sympathy with Medea’s boundless passion. “When Medea falls in love with Jason, it grabs me by my throat. I can see her,” Esch says, “I know her.” She laps up the ardor of that fiery myth and continually translates her own unrequited love into the tropes of those ancient stories. “In every one of the Greek’s mythology tales,” she notices, “there is this: a man chasing a woman, or a woman chasing a man. There is never a meeting in the middle.” A palpable sense of desire and sorrow animates every page here (and how surprisingly Ward employs the classics). Without her mother, and with a father who moves clumsily along the edge of their lives, Esch is struggling to figure out what love is. Can it be the unyielding ache she feels for a boy who rejects her? Can it be the sense of care she feels for her elfin youngest sibling, who plays among the garbage and rusting trucks in the yard? Or is true love closer to what her older brother Skeetah feels for his pit bull, China? That relationship between a boy and his dog was the genesis of Ward’s novel, and it remains the most striking aspect of the story. Skeetah’s affection for China shimmers with that transcendent understanding you see sometimes between owners and their animals, and in this case, it’s a bond fraught with contradictory allusions, from “Sounder” to Michael Vick. Skeetah’s entire life revolves around his beloved dog and the five fragile puppies she gives birth to at the opening of the novel. But he also pits China against other dogs in illegal fights that provide the book’s bloodiest scenes. This may be Ward’s most masterful move: her ability to capture the tenderness between a boy and his dog, while also rendering their joint enthusiasm for these vicious fights sickeningly believable. But to be honest, everything in “Salvage the Bones” sounds believable, even the fantastical climax that most of us only watched from a distance on TV. Ward survived Katrina with her family in De Lisle, Miss., and her description of the storm, the blind terror, the force of wind and water, is filled with visceral panic. What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion. Tea Obreht’s “The Tiger’s Wife” is an odds-on favorite for the National Book Award, partly because it’s the only well-known novel among the finalists, but “Salvage the Bones” has the aura of a classic about it. http://www.washingtonpost.com/enterta...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dianne

    A gritty, tough story about a scrappy family living in poverty in the Gulf Coast of Mississippi in a twelve day period encompassing the landfall of Hurricane Katrina. The bleakness of their plight is juxtaposed with hauntingly beautiful prose that is almost poetry. I have a full-fledged author crush on Jesmyn Ward - this woman has supernatural powers. No one else writes like her! Be prepared for content that may make you cringe, including graphic accounts of dog-fighting. It is essential to this A gritty, tough story about a scrappy family living in poverty in the Gulf Coast of Mississippi in a twelve day period encompassing the landfall of Hurricane Katrina. The bleakness of their plight is juxtaposed with hauntingly beautiful prose that is almost poetry. I have a full-fledged author crush on Jesmyn Ward - this woman has supernatural powers. No one else writes like her! Be prepared for content that may make you cringe, including graphic accounts of dog-fighting. It is essential to this story, though, and if you can hang with it, you will be rewarded with a rich reading experience you won't soon forget. This was a 5 for me until the last few chapters. I thought the book lost steam at the end a little; I was expecting a powerful and gut wrenching conclusion, but it ended much more softly that I anticipated. A 4.5 for sure - if you haven't read this yet and are a fan of strong storytelling and writing so luscious it is almost a character, do pick this one up. Loved it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Maxwell

    Jesmyn Ward does an amazing job at getting you to feel things with this book. It's extremely visceral, and warning: quite hard to read at times. There are instances of sexual assault, dog fights, and some bloody accidents that are rendered on the page expertly, but it does make for a tough read. Tread lightly. However, with that comes extreme attachment and love for the characters. I felt so deeply for Esch and her brothers. Their love for each other radiates off the page, even when their action Jesmyn Ward does an amazing job at getting you to feel things with this book. It's extremely visceral, and warning: quite hard to read at times. There are instances of sexual assault, dog fights, and some bloody accidents that are rendered on the page expertly, but it does make for a tough read. Tread lightly. However, with that comes extreme attachment and love for the characters. I felt so deeply for Esch and her brothers. Their love for each other radiates off the page, even when their actions may seem unloving, you know that with their circumstances they are doing the best they can. There's a lot to unpack with this story: from Ward's use of the Medea myth to the metaphorical and literal hurricane barreling at them for much of the story. And I know it will stick with me for quite some time. I enjoyed but didn't love Ward's latest novel Sing, Unburied, Sing, while I loved but didn't always enjoy this one. She's a skilled writer who definitely deserves the praise she has received thus far in her career, and I will continue to check out her works.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ij

    Great writing (5 stars)!!! Took off one (1) star for the animal cruelty.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    Esch is a 15 year old girl, poor and black, living in Mississippi with her father and three brothers. Her mother's death is an absence that still hurts. Maybe that's why Esch has sex with so many different boys. But now she is in love with a boy that is someone else's boyfriend. And she is pregnant. This is also a story about China, a pit bull that Esch's brother Skeetah loves with a passion. Although he fights her against other dogs, China has his heart. A hurricane is coming. They've lived throu Esch is a 15 year old girl, poor and black, living in Mississippi with her father and three brothers. Her mother's death is an absence that still hurts. Maybe that's why Esch has sex with so many different boys. But now she is in love with a boy that is someone else's boyfriend. And she is pregnant. This is also a story about China, a pit bull that Esch's brother Skeetah loves with a passion. Although he fights her against other dogs, China has his heart. A hurricane is coming. They've lived through other hurricanes but this will be the worst; this is Hurricane Katrina. This is a story about mothers. Mothers absent, reluctant, fierce. China has just given birth and cannot be trusted not to kill her own babies. Esch, of course, is pregnant and afraid. Her mother who protected and cared for her is gone. Esch is obsessed with Medea, that mother who murdered her own babies to avenge herself for her lover's betrayal. And then there is the biggest mother of all: Katrina, destroying everything in her path. This is a gripping book. I had to read fast through the dog fights, they were unbearable. But this family, this storm, was so powerful I could not stop reading despite the pain and often grim reality of their life. At the end of the book, I felt the awe that comes from reading an amazing story. It reminded me of Hurricane Katrina. I think of the man I know who was just a few weeks in this country, left homeless, rescued by a New York priest after having lost everything. I think of how the rest of us forget these tragedies after a while, go on to the next disaster, but for the people who survived it must be a never-ending presence in their lives. Jesmyn Ward survived Hurricane Katrina. I read that when her family appealed to others for help, they were turned away. In this story, no one is turned away. There is a great tenderness in this book that keeps it from becoming overwhelmingly depressing. If I have any criticisms, it is that the book is a little over rich in images, similes, metaphors. Many of them are beautiful, but sometimes it is a little too much. However, for the most part, I loved the writing-conveying the lushness of a Southern summer and the brutality of a hurricane. As well as the love, frustrated and fulfilled these people have for each other, just as Skeetah's love for his dog seems to bring to life the meaning of love, unsentimental but overwhelming. I can't seem to stop talking about this so I will. Obviously, I think this is a book everyone should read. As a reminder of Katrina and for its own special beauty.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jing

    I started the book not impressed and ended the book not impressed. I wasn't blown away by Ward's writing, which I did not find poetic or beautiful (Kundera is my standard for breathtaking prose). However, the story line is solid and Ward tries to give an acute portrayal of the twelve days leading up to Katrina for the Batiste family. There are many reasons this novel didn't work. For one, Ward fails in many key descriptions. While she can minutely detail the beauty of the woods, in other areas, s I started the book not impressed and ended the book not impressed. I wasn't blown away by Ward's writing, which I did not find poetic or beautiful (Kundera is my standard for breathtaking prose). However, the story line is solid and Ward tries to give an acute portrayal of the twelve days leading up to Katrina for the Batiste family. There are many reasons this novel didn't work. For one, Ward fails in many key descriptions. While she can minutely detail the beauty of the woods, in other areas, such as when the house is filling with water and the Batiste family needs to jump branch to branch to get to another house, her scenic words leave me confused and bewildered. How is that even possible? Why did Esch's dad push her? How were they not sucked away by the swirling currents but saved by a random tree (why is the tree not uprooted and itself lost in the whirlpool)? Secondly, while the book is set in the modern era (2005), Ward writes in such a way that is reminiscent of older, bygone times. She uses language and imagery I can see in Uncle Tom's Cabin but I find hard to believe exists in our world today--particularly because she never provides the context and background that, as a reader, I need in order to situate and conceptualize myself in the work. Lastly, the characters are so disappointing. As the main voice, Esch is a rather passive perspective. She sleeps with men she doesn't want to sleep with because it's easier to and she rarely shows her steely personality. It's incredibly hard for me to relate to Esch, despite her unrequited love, her coming of age, and her blossoming motherhood. She is a juxtaposition of contradictions: an incredibly smart, mature beyond her years tween reading Medea in her free time to a blundering, shifty, timid, and insecure child; I can't figure out who Esch is. This is in part to Ward's ill-advised use of Esch as the narrator--Esch is Ward's sole channel of expression but still has a character role to fulfill in the story. Randall and daddy Batiste aren't given much personality or focus and Junior is incredibly irritating, slightly twisted, and always lingering in the shadows. Either way, the only winner is Skeetah and China, and what Ward captures with these two is a wondrous love between man and dog that even Katrina can't destroy.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer (aka EM)

    Update: I did it. I finished it. I skimmed over some spots, but read it, I did. Right to the end. The ending that I am going to believe was a happy one. Yes. __________ This book seethes with brutality - implied, overt - and I turn each page with my heart in my throat, steeling myself for what is to come. Kids, dogs subject to abuse, trauma, neglect. Can't do it. It's beautifully written, even poetic in places, but I can't do it.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Celeste Ng

    I went to grad school with Jesmyn Ward and have been a fan of her work for years--so I expected to love this book. But I had no idea how deeply it would move me. Some lines stayed with me for days after I'd finished reading it. I couldn't stop thinking about Esch and her family, the grittiness of their world, and the fierceness of their love for each other.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ace

    3 stars Ward seems the be the master of writing deeply depressing poor American families. I would like to say that I enjoyed reading these characters more so than I did those in Sing, Unburied, Sing, but that doesn't feel right. As a reader, I can only state that sometimes I'm too far removed from where the authors head is at and I can't empathize in the way they may want me to. In this gruelling case, a young family of children and their alcoholic dad are trying to find love (possibly in all the 3 stars Ward seems the be the master of writing deeply depressing poor American families. I would like to say that I enjoyed reading these characters more so than I did those in Sing, Unburied, Sing, but that doesn't feel right. As a reader, I can only state that sometimes I'm too far removed from where the authors head is at and I can't empathize in the way they may want me to. In this gruelling case, a young family of children and their alcoholic dad are trying to find love (possibly in all the wrong places), and make their own unique footprint in the sand. Hurricane Katrina is on the way, they are dealing with what is to them, ordinary life. Some nasty scenes play out, there's much sex and sniffing, sweating and vomiting, birthing, fighting, blood and death, and that's not even due to the hurricane. I probably would not have read this book given the feedback I had received about some of the more horrific dog fighting, but I chose to read it because of the author being in the limelight at the moment. I'm glad that I read it, but would caution anyone looking for a feel-good book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Linda Wright

    Brutal and savage story told almost entirely in the present tense. I found it both repelling and compelling. In my opinion it had little to do with Katrina (the hurricane) and more to do about surviving in a savage land. Most of the descriptive writing is eloquent, but at times it could have used better editing. Now I'm looking for something that does not use the word detritus once.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    Whoo, boy, this novel is grim. "Salvage the Bones" follows a poor family in Mississippi in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina. And just like the real-life flood waters that wiped out so many lives and homes, the heaviness of this book washed over me and made it hard to breathe. Our narrator is Esch, a 15-year-old girl who learns she's pregnant just days before the storm hits. She loves a boy who doesn't love her back, and that heartbreak alone is crushing. Esch's brother Skeetah is devoted Whoo, boy, this novel is grim. "Salvage the Bones" follows a poor family in Mississippi in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina. And just like the real-life flood waters that wiped out so many lives and homes, the heaviness of this book washed over me and made it hard to breathe. Our narrator is Esch, a 15-year-old girl who learns she's pregnant just days before the storm hits. She loves a boy who doesn't love her back, and that heartbreak alone is crushing. Esch's brother Skeetah is devoted to his dog China and her puppies, but Skeetah's pride also leads them into a gruesome dogfight. Esch's mother is dead. Her father is an abusive alcoholic. They don't have enough food in the house. And all the while, that big storm keeps bearing down on them. I was interested in reading Jesmyn Ward because she has won the National Book Award twice, which is an incredible achievement. The picture that she paints in "Salvage the Bones" is incredibly drawn, but it's not a book that I enjoyed reading. I was determined to finish it despite the grimness, despite the sadness, despite the gloom. It is a tribute to those who suffered through that terrible hurricane.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Vincent Scarpa

    By far the most difficult book to trudge through that I've read this year, or in recent history for that matter. Over-stylized + over-aestheticized to the point of being nearly unreadable. A deft reader can sense, from the first page, just how much Ward wants to dazzle with her language—and there are certainly moments where she does—but it feels as if the only motivation and purpose of Salvage the Bones is to demonstrate that Jesmyn Ward can write sentences. She never uses one simile when she ca By far the most difficult book to trudge through that I've read this year, or in recent history for that matter. Over-stylized + over-aestheticized to the point of being nearly unreadable. A deft reader can sense, from the first page, just how much Ward wants to dazzle with her language—and there are certainly moments where she does—but it feels as if the only motivation and purpose of Salvage the Bones is to demonstrate that Jesmyn Ward can write sentences. She never uses one simile when she can use three. She mixes three, four, five metaphors in one paragraph. I'm really amazed that nobody at Bloomsbury's editorial department objected to a manuscript that is, on a sentence level, replete with overwrought language and trying so desperately to impress. As far as the plot itself goes, not very much happens. It's anticipating Hurricane Katrina for ten chapters—chapters that make such meaningless activities as stealing from the neighbors a twenty-page exercise—and then the storm and its aftermath in the final 30 pages. And I wish I could say what Ward lacked in control and restraint in her language she made up for elsewhere, but it isn't so. For example: the heavy-handedness of the juxtaposition between China's recent birth and Esch's recent pregnancy is a drum that Ward never tires of banging; indeed she's banging it in the last sentence. What frustrates me most—the issue of the problematic, self-satisfied, showboating language notwithstanding—is the many missed narrative opportunities in Salvage. The novel has within it the possibility to occasion a sincere and thoughtful look at the root and reason of the Mississippi Gulf Coast's systemic poverty, especially in the face of a natural disaster like Katrina that only served to magnify the area's indigence. I’m not sure a better premise exists in which to interrogate and analyze the economic condition of a place whose culture is so imbued with financial strife. And though Ward illustrates the poverty faced by Esch and her family anecdotally throughout the novel over and over again, I never felt she fully communicated that what Hurricane Katrina, as it neared closer with every chapter, threatened to destroy was a community already destroyed, dismantled, disenfranchised, and disenchanted by pre-existing conditions having nothing to do with natural disaster. In order for Ward to fully achieve her intention of educating those who marginalized the communities she’s interested in—communities that are unequivocally shaped and determined by that marginalization, so much so that it’s impossible and incomplete to leave out this disenfranchisement in any discussion of the region—she needed to have included some context for it, rather than hoping the illustrations of poverty—the pauper fantasia—would somehow impart this lesson on its own.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    So good. So devastating.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    This is the first Jesmyn Ward I have read, although as a little of it appeared familiar, I may have read an extract in a collection. It is set in Mississippi at the time of hurricane Katrina, in fact the twelve days leading up to it. It follows an African-American family who are desperately poor and living in the rural backwoods. The main protagonist is Esch, a girl of fifteen who lives with her three brothers and her alcoholic widowed father. Esch discovers she is pregnant at the start of the b This is the first Jesmyn Ward I have read, although as a little of it appeared familiar, I may have read an extract in a collection. It is set in Mississippi at the time of hurricane Katrina, in fact the twelve days leading up to it. It follows an African-American family who are desperately poor and living in the rural backwoods. The main protagonist is Esch, a girl of fifteen who lives with her three brothers and her alcoholic widowed father. Esch discovers she is pregnant at the start of the book. Her sexual experiences started at twelve with her brother’s friends and as she explains, "it was easier to let him keep on touching me than ask him to stop". Esch is literate and she is reading Greek mythology and there is a mythic quality to the story: a sensuality and physicality and some haunting descriptions. There is a good deal of pain and sorrow which is built up to be anything other than something to be got through and survived. There are several strands running through the novel. There is the preparation for the hurricane, family dynamics and Esch’s interactions with the unborn child’s father. One of Esch’s brothers, Skeet, owns a pit bull dog, which gives birth to a litter of puppies. Dogs and dog fighting are another theme and one which I struggled with as the descriptions are graphic and sickening. It is a powerful description of family life and all of the characters feel realistic and you end up caring about them, despite their lack of prospects and hopelessness. Despite the violence and oppression there is a humanity about the characters, particularly Esch and her linking her life to that of Medea: “I wonder if Medea felt this way before she walked out to meet Jason for the first time, like a hard wind come through her and set her to shaking.” The descriptive passages are excellent and Katrina is also almost one of the characters: “The murderous mother who cut us to the bone but left us alive, left us naked and bewildered as wrinkled newborn babies, as blind puppies, as sun-starved newly hatched baby snakes. She left us a dark Gulf and salt-burned land. She left us to learn to crawl.” There are issues and problems, but the whole is a powerful portrayal of those living at the edge of society.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Zoe Mann

    "Salvage the Bones" by Jesmyn Ward is a slow malting novel that takes time to mature, but come the end, all the characterisation and scene building fuses together in 1 perfect explosion. I don't tend to read literary fiction but something about this book screamed to be read. The detail and portrayal of each and every character was exquisite. I felt like I knew them all inside and out. The setting was also wonderfully described. I could feel the sizzling heat on my skin and the warm humid air bef "Salvage the Bones" by Jesmyn Ward is a slow malting novel that takes time to mature, but come the end, all the characterisation and scene building fuses together in 1 perfect explosion. I don't tend to read literary fiction but something about this book screamed to be read. The detail and portrayal of each and every character was exquisite. I felt like I knew them all inside and out. The setting was also wonderfully described. I could feel the sizzling heat on my skin and the warm humid air before a storms hits. It was simply a beautifully, heartbreaking read. "Salvage the Bones" is about a family preparing for a storm to hit but really it is not about the storm at all. It is about each and every one of their sacrifices and struggles, qualities and flaws but above all their love and loyalty to one another. I didn't realise how much the characters had touched my heart until I was sobbing like a baby at the end. (This could be down to having a heart procedure and being full of sedation and adrenaline but I know I would of cried like a baby no matter the day or circumstances.) So why 3 stars? As others have stated there are quite a few disturbing scenes of dog abuse, dog fighting and dog neglect. It did add substance to the story but being the biggest dog lover it was extremely difficult to stomach. Also as much as the story was about the characters rather than a plot itself, it could of had just a little more drama and excitement. It was extremely slow to build up and finally feel the way I felt for the characters. Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    Extremely brutal and gritty, but such a celebration of what a family is and how a family takes care of each other in less than ideal situations. Their mother dead, their father a drunk, the four siblings do their best to raise themselves and take care of each other. Their fighting pitbull China, is the focus of much of their attention as she has puppies that need to be tended to. The hurricane is coming, they are trying to stock food and water, and the tension mounts. When the hurricane comes, m Extremely brutal and gritty, but such a celebration of what a family is and how a family takes care of each other in less than ideal situations. Their mother dead, their father a drunk, the four siblings do their best to raise themselves and take care of each other. Their fighting pitbull China, is the focus of much of their attention as she has puppies that need to be tended to. The hurricane is coming, they are trying to stock food and water, and the tension mounts. When the hurricane comes, much is lost but the book ends on a note of hope, hope for a better tomorrow.

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