Jing's Reviews > Salvage the Bones

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
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it was ok

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, such as when the house is filling with water and the Batiste family needs to jump branch to branch to get to another house, her scenic words leave me confused and bewildered. How is that even possible? Why did Esch's dad push her? How were they not sucked away by the swirling currents but saved by a random tree (why is the tree not uprooted and itself lost in the whirlpool)? Secondly, while the book is set in the modern era (2005), Ward writes in such a way that is reminiscent of older, bygone times. She uses language and imagery I can see in Uncle Tom's Cabin but I find hard to believe exists in our world today--particularly because she never provides the context and background that, as a reader, I need in order to situate and conceptualize myself in the work.

Lastly, the characters are so disappointing. As the main voice, Esch is a rather passive perspective. She sleeps with men she doesn't want to sleep with because it's easier to and she rarely shows her steely personality. It's incredibly hard for me to relate to Esch, despite her unrequited love, her coming of age, and her blossoming motherhood. She is a juxtaposition of contradictions: an incredibly smart, mature beyond her years tween reading Medea in her free time to a blundering, shifty, timid, and insecure child; I can't figure out who Esch is. This is in part to Ward's ill-advised use of Esch as the narrator--Esch is Ward's sole channel of expression but still has a character role to fulfill in the story. Randall and daddy Batiste aren't given much personality or focus and Junior is incredibly irritating, slightly twisted, and always lingering in the shadows. Either way, the only winner is Skeetah and China, and what Ward captures with these two is a wondrous love between man and dog that even Katrina can't destroy.
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Reading Progress

March 21, 2012 – Shelved
March 24, 2012 – Started Reading
March 24, 2012 –
page 58
March 26, 2012 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-11 of 11 (11 new)

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April Finally, someone else who wasn't impressed by what I found to be very mediocre, scattered writing.

Jenna Her Dad pushed her when he found out she was pregnant.

Claudette I agree with you. Although I found the book beautifully written, it didn't engage me as much as I felt it should.

Teresa It's true that the imagery is reminiscent of bygone times, but that's not because it's unrealistic, it's because there's poverty and segregation that exists in the south that many people don't even know still exists. The author grew up in a town much like the one she describes.

Alison Aren't most teen girls a "juxtaposition of contradictions"? I think that's why she's so believable.

Ellen B I found the characters confusing too. The descriptions were good, but something was still missing.

KC Girlfriends Book Club I didn't think that the characters were fully developed at all and felt that the author was writing in a different era but in modern times. I just don't think that the author gave enough description in order to make me feel one way or the other about the characters.

Jessica Not all trees get uprooted in a hurricane and there was no whirlpool, just flooding and wind.

Rachael Schuler I agree with you completely.

Jenel If you have ever been in a Hurricane or seen its immediate aftermath in person the scene in the tree makes perfect sense.

message 11: by Rita (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rita Jing, you would find it enlightening to read a number of other novels -- and memoirs -- written by African Americans. There are whole other social worlds out there that you are unfamiliar with, waiting for you to discover.

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