China's turned on herself. ~ Opening of Salvage the Bones
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Bloomsbury USA; 2010
Fiction; 261 pgs
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.
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