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Salvage the Bones

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  18,734 Ratings  ·  2,870 Reviews
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. H ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 24th 2012 by Bloomsbury USA (first published August 30th 2010)
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Barbara looked on YouTube: Jesmyn Ward to find out more about the author. I don't know anywhere that lists the characters and their descriptions. However,…more looked on YouTube: Jesmyn Ward to find out more about the author. I don't know anywhere that lists the characters and their descriptions. However, you should just google the title and read the reviews or put in title and ask for summary.(less)

Community Reviews

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Dec 31, 2011 jo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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
Oct 08, 2013 Steve rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Salvage this Book. That’s my take, though I do feel bad about dogging it. Not for the author’s sake—for mine. With lavish awards and reviews, I suspect I’m missing something. Like I’m some plot-driven bonehead who can’t see the point of this softer tale. And I tried so hard. I’ve never had so many 4-page reading sessions—all totaled, it took 3 months to read this 200-page book.

The most frustrating part about it is that sentence-by-sentence, Jesmyn Ward wrote a damn beautiful collection. These p
Apr 26, 2016 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: kari- b/c she loves her some serious reads.
Shelves: fiction, beloved
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 affect 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 ...more
Feb 20, 2016 Dianne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2016
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
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.
Aug 28, 2012 Maureen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
T. Greenwood
May 26, 2013 T. Greenwood rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-teaching
5/18/13 I just re-read this for a workshop I am teaching. Still love every raw bit of this book. Be prepared's the kind of book that wrecks you.

3/19/12 I feel like I want to write a love letter to this author. This book just earned a spot on my list of all-time favorites.

It is the story of fourteen year old Esch and her family who live in the Bois Sauvage in rural Mississippi. It takes place over the ten days leading up to Hurricane Katrina. Esch's mother is dead, her father is a dru
Feb 04, 2012 Linda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ron Charles
Nov 15, 2013 Ron Charles rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 31, 2012 Jing rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 15, 2012 Kristi rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
There are a few "too recent" things that have happened in our country's history that I find difficult to read about yet, primarily because everyone jumped on the bandwagon of wanting to write about them the minute they happened and it was too much for me because I had my own feels about what had happened. Those two things are 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.

This book is about Hurricane Katrina.

Except it's not entirely about that. It's a big part of the story, and it refuses to be ignored, but it's no
Dec 08, 2011 Babydoll rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok. I have to admit it. I felt an abundance of awe while reading Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. The sort of awe-inspiring admiration an avid reader’s experience, while reading a novel whose lyrical prose is so breathtaking, that you know you’ve just discovered your new favorite author. Ward has received numerous notable attentions for this novel, including the National Book Award for fiction. After reading it, I can undoubtedly understand the reason the accolades were given.

The novel begins
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

3.5 Stars

Salvage the Bones follows the Batiste family through 12 days in August of 2005 as they prepare to ride out what starts as a tropical depression, but ends up turning into Hurricane Katrina. As the impoverished family attempts to scrape together enough scrap wood to board the house and a stockpile of food and water to last them a few days, they are also forced to come to terms with their past, present and future. The past is a m
Nov 27, 2011 Grace rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, read-in-2011
Salvage the Bones is a Hurricane Katrina story that won the 2011 National Book Award for Fiction. That's all I knew when I requested a copy from my local library and I figured I couldn't go wrong with reading this book. Sigh. I did.

I wanted to like it. It had all of the right ingredients for a powerful novel. Characters were conflicted with themselves, each other, and nature. There was room for characters to develop and change throughout the story. The backdrop was one of the worst disasters Am
Brian Kelley
Jan 08, 2012 Brian Kelley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading a distinct artistic voice remains one my great pleasures. Even if I know ahead of time that the writer's voice and acclaim precedes him/her the surprise of the journey through the novel stays with me for a long time. Steinbeck's The Winter of Our Discontent grabbed me like that--so did Kerouac's On the Road--along with McCullers' The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Rand's Atlas Shrugged; Robinson's Housekeeping; Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day; de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince...and so o ...more
Oct 25, 2011 Ciara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2011
i had a really tough time getting into this book. maybe it's because i was reading it in between doing other things (i generally prefer to block out a big chunk of time so i can really get into a story--especially with fiction). maybe it's just because it wasn't really that engaging. it's the story of a family living in mississippi countryside, in the week & a half before hurricane katrina hits. the story is narrated by esch, age fifteen & the only girl among the four siblings. randall, ...more
Novelists like Jesmyn Ward don't come along very often. Only truly special writers can slip readers beneath the skin of a character, make them feel as if they are experiencing the events happening on page first hand. Reading Salvage the Bones one is drawn into the oppressive summer heat of Louisiana; aches with helpless desire; is burdened by a stifling sense of loss; vicariously goes through youthful yearning to be loved, even if only as much as a treasured pet. Prior to the arrival of Hurrican ...more
Apr 05, 2012 Lindaellen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a difficult book for me to read. It is bleak, so very bleak, and one of the story threads is dog-fighting, which meant I had to skip more than a few pages (although I did read enough to get the gist of what was going on). That being said, I think the book probably presents a very accurate portrayal of life for this family in that part of Louisiana and, given the culture, the dog-fighting aspect was probably accurate and necessary, as well. The writing is beautiful in an unusual and unex ...more
Aug 19, 2014 Anne rated it it was amazing
A gritty, honest (I believe) soul searing book that engrossed me and made me very angry. America need not have people living in such desperate poverty. I am angry at the 'system', at the politicians who won't do anything to change the system, and at myself and others who feel powerless to make the necessary changes. Too many of us are greedy, self centered, and wear blinders. Thank you to Jesmyn Ward for opening my eyes and my heart wider.
Sep 12, 2014 Dree rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unreadable
I don't read slasher books.

I don't read dogfighting books.

I don't read books featuring lots of animal/animal violence or human/animal violence.

Made it past page 100 and realized it would only get worse, not better.
Michelle Turner

Salvage the Bones has been heralded as a testament to the endurance of those of have faced Katrina. Although Katrina does make an appearance at the end of this book, it is more a story about family:
Esch, the only girl among men who turns to her mythology books and her mother’s memory for guidance,
Randall, eldest brother who hopes his athletic prowess will be his ticket to college
Skeetah, full of temerity; whole-heartedly devoted to his pit bull, China
And Junior, the son who will never know his
Larry Bassett
There are four of them: Junior, age seven; Esch, fifteen; Skeetah, sixteen; and Randall, seventeen. Their Mama died seven years ago when Junior was born. The Daddy is around but has a problem with alcohol and anger. They have a dog: a pit bull named China, a dog trained for fighting. She gave birth to five puppies in the very first chapter. Early on we also learn that fifteen year old Esch began having sex at the age of twelve and has had quite a number of local partners in the three years since ...more
Vincent Scarpa
Sep 05, 2013 Vincent Scarpa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
This is a prose novel written by a poet. The language is beautiful and the pacing is perfect. It was difficult to put this one down at night, and sometimes I didn't. I wish it was longer. I hated to come to the last page and leave this family. I have read in some places that it is considered a Hurricane Katrina novel; however, I think that would be an incorrect characterization of the book. It actually is about a poor family in Mississippi and how they live, and how they deal with the adversity ...more
Jun 23, 2012 Katie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really did not like this book. It only got 2 stars instead of 1 because I ultimately appreciated the end part when Hurricane Katrina finally hit. Finally! I thought this whole book was about the hurricane, but only the end part was. Which would have been fine, if the rest of the plot had been remotely interesting. But I just found it all very tedious. I only finished it because it was such a quick read, and I kept waiting for the storm to hit.

It's not that the author is not a good writer, but
Mrs. Danvers
Aug 03, 2016 Mrs. Danvers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jesmyn Ward is a storyteller. Jesmyn Ward is a poet. Jesmyn Ward is a classicist. Jesmyn Ward has her fingers on the pulse of the world. This book is a tricky one. Dogfights, Medea, Hurricane Katrina, poverty, motherhood, love, beauty. All from the voice of a 14-year-old girl. I'm quite frankly embarrassed that I took so long to read this one. Don't make my mistake. Don't wait. I think this is a book that can be read many times.

I should also note that I listened to this as an audiobook, read by

Because Jesmyn Ward's Katrina novel won the National Book Award and is a contender in the Tournament of Books, it has been widely reviewed, mostly favorably. So I won't go into plot or spend any of our valuable time rehashing what others have already said.

My reading experience of Salvage the Bones was mixed. I certainly got involved with the story and the characters. She put me into their world and made me care what would happen to them as she also personalized the Katrina experience. But someth
This is one of the those books that I can easily acknowledge as being very, very well written. The premise is great: a family deals with their traumatic issues of life while Hurricane Katrina moves in on the people of the Gulf. What makes the novel so wonderful is that these issues include a teen pregnancy, complete with unknown "daddy," an alcoholic father, and even a detailed depiction of dog fighting. The characters aren't heroes by any stretch of the imagination, but, when the hurricane come ...more
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Around the Year i...: Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward 3 19 May 01, 2016 10:15PM  
  • The Field of Vision
  • Gathering of Waters
  • Blood Tie
  • Elsewhere, California
  • Lord of Misrule
  • The Sojourn
  • Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories
  • A Crown of Feathers
  • The Hair of Harold Roux
  • The Talk-Funny Girl
  • Lightning Rods
  • Paco's Story
  • The News from Paraguay
  • The Last Brother
  • Ten North Frederick
  • The Waters of Kronos
  • Silver Sparrow
  • The Book of Night Women
Jesmyn Ward is the author of Where the Line Bleeds, Salvage the Bones, and Men We Reaped. She is a former Stegner Fellow (Stanford University) and Grisham Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi. She is an associate professor of Creative Writing at Tulane University.

Her work has appeared in BOMB, A Public Space and The Oxford American.
More about Jesmyn Ward...

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“it is the way that all girls who only know one boy move. Centered as if the love that boy feels for them anchors them deep as a tree's roots, holds them still as the oaks, which don't uproot in hurricane wind. Love as certainty.” 19 likes
“I will not let him see until none of us have any choices about what can be seen, what can be avoided, what is blind, and what will turn us to stone.” 9 likes
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