Ed's Reviews > Salvage the Bones

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
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Jan 27, 12

bookshelves: 2012, 4-stars, new-author-to-me, read-on-kindle, tournament-of-books-2012, shared-in-household
Read from January 20 to 26, 2012

Harrowing. If there is one word to sum up Jesmyn Ward's Salvage The Bones that would be a good one. It is a coming-of-age story of 14-year old girl named Esch, living in poverty in the bayous of Mississippi with her widower father and three brothers: young Junior who has never known a mother, future basketball hopeful Randall, and brash Skeetah with a tender spot for his white pit bull named China. From the start, there is a sense of foreboding... that things are not going to end well, so one hardly needs the added plot of Hurricane Katrina to be way.

This is sad, tough, rough, stuff but balanced by Ward's beautiful prose. There is a poetic/lyrical quality to it, but I found that it more had the painful/pained riff of the blues, quite appropriate for the setting and these lives. It has the feel of a "classic" novel one may read in high school, though it would never get there due to "strong language and mature themes."

A caveat to animal, and particularly, dog lovers. While Esch is the emotional core of the novel, the spotlight is strongly shared with Skeetah and China, a legend in neighborhood dog fights. There are some quite difficult and graphic passages that I imagine would be gut-wrenching for anyone, but particularly sickening to those of us with special relationships with (wo)man's best friend.

Not many downsides to report other than feeling my attention flagged/the story dragged at a few points in the middle. A solid 4 star book that may have briefly dipped to my unofficial 3.5 stars at those low points, but then there was the ending, the ending. Wow. Based on one chapter alone, it was easy to see why Ward won the National Book Award. It had me wavering to the higher rating, but alas I will stick to the 4 stars. A heartbreaking read, but amazing book.
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