Review: Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

salvage-the-bonesAbout Salvage the Bones

• Hardcover: 261 pages
• Published: September 2011 by Bloomsbury
• Source: Purchased

Goodreads DescriptionA 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 she gets; she’s fourteen and pregnant. Her brother Skeetah is sneaking scraps for his prized pitbull’s new litter, dying one by one in the dirt. Meanwhile, brothers Randall and Junior try to stake their claim in a family long on child’s play and short on parenting.

As the twelve days that make up the novel’s framework yield to their dramatic conclusion, this unforgettable family—motherless children sacrificing for one another as they can, protecting and nurturing where love is scarce—pulls itself up to face another day. A big-hearted novel about familial love and community against all odds, and a wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty, Salvage the Bones is muscled with poetry, revelatory, and real.

My Thoughts

I mentioned this book last year, but it deserves its own review, because it’s such a powerful book. It’s a book I never ever want to read again, but one I haven’t been able to forget, and one I find myself saying, “Just trust me, you need to read it.”

I’ll be the first to admit the description did nothing for me. I was interested in the book simply because of the cover, and because it won a National Book Award. (Though honestly, I don’t always agree with the award committee, so sometimes that steers me wrong.) The cover though – the cover kept tugging at me. And one night I just figured, why not. And started reading.

And was immediately…confused. Not by the story, but by my reaction to it. I was both appalled and fascinated by what I was reading. I immediately liked Esch, but I couldn’t tell you why. I cared about her, though I hated her brothers, her father, and the boys she went to school with. That didn’t change throughout the story – Esch was always the only one I cared about, though I did come to sympathize with the rest of them.

Ward builds the tension quite well in Salvage. It happens almost without you realizing it, and then all of a sudden you’re in the middle of Katrina with Esch and her brothers and her father and you’re terrified with them. You feel everything they feel, experience everything they experience. The last couple of chapters are some of the most gripping chapters I’ve ever read in a book, and the emotions that go along with it are both conflicting and powerful. Reading this book truly feels like you’ve lived through a hurricane.

I won’t say too much more about it, other than it’s a book I think everyone should read.

4 stars