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Salvage the Bones

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  14,471 ratings  ·  2,437 reviews
Winner of the 2011 National Book Award

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 sh
Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 24th 2012 by Bloomsbury USA (first published August 30th 2010)
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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
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
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.
Mar 23, 2012 Elizabeth rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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*... other than the urgency that is found in those books (and is also present in "Salvage...") the overall effect is quite different. Instead of violence and desperation, Jesamyn Ward gives us sweetness, beauty, and anticipation. Her writing is gorgeous (as one of the characters is racin
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
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
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
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.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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 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 and proble ...more
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

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 novel takes place in the fictional town of Bois Sauvage, MS. It covers the 10 days before Hurricane Katrina and two days afterwards. This is the story of 15-year-old pregnant Esch. Her mother is dead, her Dad a drunk. She has three brothers and, basically, they have raised themselves.

I wanted to like this book more, but found it very difficult to read. I was conflicted through most of the book. I had to keep reminding myself it was written from the perspective of children. There is some tou
Cold Budweiser

1. Chill a can of Budweiser in the refrigerator.
2. Remove can and wait until condensation forms on the sides of the can.
3. Serve in the can.
Thing Two
Jesmyn Ward lived through Hurricane Katrina. When their house in rural Mississippi was rapidly flooding, the Ward family first sought refuge in a local church, but then ended up stranded, sheltered by some old farm equipment, turned away by the homeowners. Someone eventually gave them shelter, but Ward was profoundly affected by the despicable treatment she'd received from her "neighbors". It is through this lenses of horror that Ward writes Salvage the Bones.

In Ward's own words, "this is the s
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
Clearly some powerful themes, and a fascinating setting, but the book was overwritten and dragged. Maybe it was partly my own anxiety: I forgot this book was about Katrina until I started reading - wouldn't have consciously chosen to read this as Sandy roared outside my windows. But I did find the heavy use of metaphor and symbolism tiresome after awhile. On the other hand, Esch's vulnerability and need is well drawn. Clearly a young developing talent.
Feb 03, 2012 Coleen rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone!
Shelves: 2011, nookbooks, 2012
Salvage the Bones was probably the best book I read in 2011. From the opening sentence I felt a tremendous weight, the writing is so poignant, so full of emotion.

Salvage the Bones begins with the Batiste family preparing for hurricane Katrina while facing the day to day obstacles of their lives. In spite of all of the sadness this book also left me with a feeling of hope in the power of the human spirit and the awesome power of family.
Maria Carmo
They call this "the first great romance about Katrina" and I have no doubt it deserves this title!
This book is a monument. A human encyclopedia of life at the Bois...Love presents itself through the family relationships of brothers and one sister... Wild love, made of survival, cooperation, fending for space and the right to live... The intricate relation between Esch, Skeetah, Randall and Junior and Skeetah's dog China, the crude smell of sweat, blood and tears... Katrina coming just in time to
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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...
Men We Reaped Where the Line Bleeds Cattle Haul (Electric Literature's Recommended Reading)

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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.” 16 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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