Title: Salvage The Bones
Author: Jesmyn Ward
272 pages, Published by Bloomsbury
Buy The Book: Amazon
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. Meanwhile, 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 make up the novel’s framework yield to their dramatic conclusion, this unforgettable family-motherless children sacrificing for one another as they can, protecting and nurturing where love is scarce-pulls itself up to face another day. A big-hearted novel about familial love and community against all odds, and a wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty, Salvage the Bones is muscled with poetry, revelatory, and real. (Summary provided by Bloomsbury.)
If you are a regular reader of The Well-Read Wife, then you probably already know that I grew up on the MS Gulf Coast in Long Beach, MS and have settled in Biloxi. So when I heard that Jesmyn Ward’s novel Salvage The Bones tells the story of a family in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina, I was intrigued.
Salvage The Bones is told through the eyes of fourteen year old Esch. The story begins with China, a pitbull, giving birth to a litter of puppies. In what is one of the most vivid birthing scenes I have read since The Red Pony by John Steinbeck, Esch reminisces about the birth of her brother junior that resulted in her mother’s death while watching China struggle to deliver her puppies. The scene is both beautiful and tragic and sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the novel. From there,Ward writes of twelve days in the life of the Batiste family, and within those twelve days a startling portrait of a life of poverty in the modern South is portrayed. First, there is Esch. At fourteen, she has just found out that she is pregnant, and she is scared. There is Randall who dreams of being scouted for college ball, and then, there is Skeetah. Skeetah loves his pitbull China and cares for her the way a father cares for a child. Yet, he risks China’s life in dog fights. All of the action leads up to Hurricane Katrina’s arrival on the coast.
But I soon discovered that to say this book is a Hurricane Katrina story is a marginalization. Yes, I realize some really great works of fiction have been written about the storm. Salvage The Bones is something else all together. It is astounding. Jesmyn Ward (from DeLisle, MS) writes with a vision and passion worthy of other great Mississippi writers. Like William Faulkner, Richard Wright, and Eudora Welty before her, Jesmyn Ward is a brilliant writer with a unique voice. To say that I recommend this book is an understatement. What I recommend is that professors of Contemporary Literature and Southern Fiction go ahead and put this one on your syllabi. One day you’ll be required to.
Many thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me on the Salvage The Bones tour. Be sure and check out the other stops:
Monday, September 5th: A Bookish Way of Life
Tuesday, September 6th: So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
Wednesday, September 7th: Raging Bibliomania
Monday, September 12th: Wandering Thoughts of a Scientific Housewife
Wednesday, September 14th: Caribousmom
Monday, September 19th: Book Addiction
Wednesday, September 21st: The Scarlet Letter
Thursday, September 22nd: Linus’s Blanket Out of Twenty Q&A
Monday, September 26th: Well Read Wife
Tuesday, September 27th: Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, September 28th: Mocha Momma
Thursday, September 29th: Peeking Between the Pages
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