Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Bookish Thoughts: Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

China's turned on herself. ~ Opening of Salvage the Bones


Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Bloomsbury USA; 2010
Fiction; 261 pgs
Source: 

From Goodreads: 
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 doesnt 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.

It has been months since I read Jesmyn's novel, Salvage the Bones. I kept putting off writing the review, staring at my notes, unsure how to put my thoughts together. In a break from my usual review, I thought I would just share my notes with you.

  • I have mixed feelings about Salvage the Bones. It's beautiful, raw, cruel, and heartbreaking.
  • I hated, hated, hated the dog fighting scenes-- I ended up skimming the longer they went on. The killing of the first puppy (not because of dog fighting) . . . It was awful. As an animal lover, it was hard to maintain any sort of objectivity. I felt physically ill reading the scenes.
  • Novels like this are so important. This was a window into a world so unlike my own. I really felt for Esch and her situation. 
  • I wish more time had been spent on Hurricane Katrina--that's really the part of the novel that kept me reading. I hadn't realized how quickly Hurricane Katrina came and went. So frightening.  There was no time to escape in some instances. So devastating. It really puts things into perspective. 
  • I loved the way the author weaved the myth of Medea into the novel. I could see it--the parallels in events--or rather the female characters in the novel.
  • I got a good feel of what life was like for the family. Their different roles and relationships with each other. I think the only characters I didn't like were Manny and his cousin. And the dad--although I felt for him in the end. 
  • In the end, I cannot say I enjoyed  Salvage the Bones. There are some subject matters that I just can't get past, no matter how natural or ingrained in a culture or society they might be. 
  • Would I read something else by Jesmyn Ward? Absolutely. As long as there's no dog fighting or animal cruelty.

To learn more about Jesmyn Ward and her work, please visit the GoodreadsShe can also be found on Twitter.


© 2016, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

22 comments:

  1. Oh wow, it sounds like an amazing novel, but I'm not sure if I'd be able to stand the dog fighting scenes, especially if they're graphic.

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    1. Eustacia - I might have loved this one if not for that. I just couldn't get past it. :-(

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  2. I've had the same thought about windows into "foreign" worlds that exist side by side with our own. Important. Uncomfortable. Sometimes frightening. All within the same country, state, and often within the same town or city...another way of life. And I agree, there are some things we can't get past, even when we understand how ingrained the history and attitudes.

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    1. Jenclair - Yes, yes, yes. All of what you said.

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  3. This sounds very eye opening, and very honest. I like books that reveal the real ways of life and don't gloss over the ugly bits.

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    1. Sarah - I generally do too--a good example being the book I am listening to right now, Here Comes the Sun. Unfortunately, there are some topics that I just can't get past. :-(

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  4. I think I'd have trouble the animal cruelty scenes too.

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    1. Kathy - I tried to see past it, but it really impacted my reading unfortunately.

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  5. I like to read stories that give me a glimpse into other people's lives, especially those in a different lifestyle than mine. I would not be able to read this because of the animal cruelty scenes.

    I remember reading Beautiful Joe when I was a kid and freaking out crying when the man held the pups on a log and cut off their ears and tails. Since then I can't stomach it...

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    1. Rita - I do as well. I wish I could have gotten past the animal cruelty because I do think this is a worthwhile book.

      Sounds like I won't be reading Beautiful Joe . . .

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  6. While some scenes you mentioned would definitely be hard for me to read too, I very intrigued by your review of this one!

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    1. Iliana - If you do read it, I would love to know your thoughts. My postal mail group seemed to be of mixed minds. Some of it loved it, and some didn't.

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  7. I'm not sure I could get past the animal cruelty scenes either and I struggle with Katrina books as it all hit a little too close to home for me. I have family in south Mississippi so I remember the devastation and the shocking loss a little too well. I'm glad you found it beneficial even if it wasn't enjoyable. I'm going to keep a look out for the author as her writing sounds compelling but this one isn't for me.

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    1. Katherine - I can see why this book wouldn't appeal to you. Hurricane Katrina was so devastating. I would like to give this author another try even if this one didn't work for me.

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  8. I'm intrigued -- I've read a few novels that I didn't necessarily like reading but which taught me something and which I'm glad to have read.

    I am totally with you on the dog fighting thing, though. I read "The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick's Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption," which was written by an investigator on the case, and some of the passages about what they found on the property made me sick to my stomach. And it's possibly even worse than your book because it all happened in real life just the way it's described in the book... Needless to say, we're all Michael Vick haters in this house (even the cat!).

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    1. Lindsay - I am glad I read this one, as uncomfortable as it made me. I don't think I could read The Lost Dogs. I am familiar at least with Michael Vick--but to read about cruelty to real dogs . . . That man is evil.

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  9. I'm like the others; I don't think I'm able to get past those animal cruelty scenes.

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    1. Melody - It was difficult for me. I wish I had been able to look past it.

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  10. I thought this book was really incredible but also had a very difficult time with the dog fighting scenes. Ultimately, I understand why it was a part of the story but I wished the scenes themselves would have been a bit less graphic.

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    1. Heather - I wish I could have looked beyond those scenes to better appreciate this book. :-(

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  11. I can see why you felt mixed about this, it sounds like a hard book to read. I dislike reading about animal cruelty and always try to skip those type of scenes.

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    1. Lola - It was a difficult one for me. I tried to skim some of it, but it was still too much.

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