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Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
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's review
Jan 14, 2012

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bookshelves: fiction-mainstream
Read in January, 2012

SALVAGE THE BONES. (2011). Jesmyn Ward. ***.
This was the 2011 winner of the National Book Award. It’s about a dysfunctional family set in a coastal town in Mississippi, starting just before hurricane Katrina until just after it hits. It’s a story centered around Esch, a fifteen-year-old girl who is pregnant and living with her three brothers and her father. Mom is dead and dad is a drunkard. Her brother Skeetah is raising pit bulls, and is caring for a new litter that is slowly dying in the dirt outside of the kennel he built to house them. Esch is pretty free with sex; she imagines she is one of the Muses while in the midst of the act. The boy who got her pregnant, however, wants no more to do with her. Daddy is busy collecting food and liquor to ride out the hurricane he knows is coming. Mostly, the food is dried ramen. It’s a pretty bleak picture. What holds it all together is the love the children have for each other. This is a first novel by this author, and is well written, but lacks the spark to hold it all together. I got the feeling that this was an exercise of putting a bunch of characters in a box and shaking it up to see what happened. The story itself was a kind-of collection of daily vignettes of family life under not-the-best of family conditions – a genre that we have seen plenty of in the recent past. I didn’t think it was of National Book Award standards, although I haven’t seen the short list. All-in-all, though, not a bad execution for a first novel.
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Tina This was not her first novel. Her debut was Where the Line Bleeds, which also garnered good reviews and awards.

Tony I stand corrected. Sorry for the error. I don't remember where I got the bad info.

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