Thursday, November 3, 2016

Book Review: "Salvage the Bones" by Jesmyn Ward

Salvage the Bones Jesmyn Ward
Published: April 24, 2012
ISBN: 9781608196265
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Book Club
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Coming of age stories, sibling novels, novels set during recent history

A 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. While 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 comprise the novel's framework yield to the final day and Hurricane Katrina, the unforgettable family at the novel's heart--motherless children sacrificing for each other as they can, protecting and nurturing where love is scarce--pulls itself up to struggle for another day. 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:
This book is one of those that has been sitting there, taunting me, for ages.  I've wanted to read, but I just never had the chance.  Then it came through on one my book groups and I not only had the chance, but the obligation (well, maybe that's too strong of a word) to read it.

I had been reading a lot of "lighter" works before this, so it was good to get back into a book I could really sink my teeth into and, on that count, this book did not disappoint.  I loved Ward's lyrical prose--I fell into it effortlessly.  It contrasted drastically with the dialogue of the book, which is much more in dialect.  I felt the juxtaposition between these to elements effectively illustrated how those that many discount as being "lower class" live just as rich lives as everyone else.

This story is told 12 days, up to and including Hurricane Katrina.  Because of this, I think there was a certain pace that Ward was required to meet, and she did so beautifully.  The book builds up intensity and the emotional climax of the book comes just as the family is trying to survive the storm.  Yet, the true beauty emerges as they have to face the devastation.

Esch is a fascinating character--a girl who, because of her place in society, seems doomed to a certain type of life.  Yet, it is clear that she is so much more. Several times while reading this novel, my heart broke for her.  As for her brothers, I will admit it took me a little while to keep some of them, namely Skeeter and Randall, straight.  But, once I had that down, I found them to be as faceted as Esch.  The portrait of the family as a whole is one that will, if you'll excuse the cliche, restore your faith in humanity.

I do feel I should put this out there, and this is not a criticism of the book, but rather an issue with my own preferences and comfort level.  I have a very hard time with dog fighting, and there are some very graphic descriptions of it in this book.  I'm not saying they are not necessary, as Ward clearly uses them to illustrate the struggles of the human characters, but they were very, very hard for me to read.  If this is something that might be an issue for you, please take note.

I'm so glad I finally got that push to read this book.  It was well worth the wait and the read and something I would recommend to almost anyone.

I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.

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