Herelbowroom's Reviews > Salvage the Bones

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
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Mar 19, 12

Read in March, 2012

I wanted this book to be my new favorite, but I found it so consistent that I was glad when it was over. No doubt, Ward uses beautiful language and is a gifted writer. However, her flowing passages seemed almost contrite when compared to the subjects she's talking about... rural, dirt poor, African-American family, dog fights, teenage pregnancy, mass destruction at the hands of Hurricane Katrina. Instead of there being this fascinating veil over this sequence of tragedies, building up to the ultimate tragedy of Hurrican Katrina, the story seemed to get in the way of itself, splintering instead.
Adding to those contradictions, were a few discrepencies that I have a hard time believing, which again, is probably why I found the book untrustworthy and inconsistent. Ward grew up in Mississippi, as did I, so I would think that she would remember that schools in Mississippi start in mid to late August (August 10th-20th). The novel takes place in the summer, which is fine, but Hurricane Katrina hit southeast Louisiana on August 29th, 2005. Esch and all the boys would've been in school the entire time the novel takes place (10 days prior to the hurricane and the 2 following). Fiction is fiction, but if you're going to base it around an historical event as earth shattering and destructive as Hurricane Katrina, then the author should ask questions about what makes a valid setting a believable setting. Also, the day after the hit, when Esch, her brothers and Big Henry get in the car to go drive around and see the damage, I had to put the book down and walk away. Totally unbelievable! There were no roads available on the coast of Mississippi. Neighborhoods 3 hours north of the coast in Jackson had people blocked in because trees fell in the road, blocking the way. If the center part of the state couldn't drive, then the coast would've been completely out of the question, save for john boats and cutting a path with chainsaws. I felt like for all of the build up for the previous 10 days/chapters, the event was a total let down. Tragic, of course, but the book only seemed to cheapen the signifance of what was going on by having the protagonists jump in a car and survey the damage. I am disappointed by this book. I would like to think I'm going to read more Jesmyn Ward, but I may have to remember that she is disguising her poetry with a somewhat weak novel.
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