Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Salvage the BonesIt wasn’t that the Batiste family decided to stay in their home while Hurricane Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast, it was that they had bigger battles consuming their lives. Every chapter moves the storm one day closer. In some chapters, the storm is not mentioned at all.

Having never recovered from the death of their mother, Esch (the narrator), her brothers and her alcoholic father live a hand to mouth existence in rural Mississippi. As the storm approaches, their lives become unraveled.

Esch, is fifteen, pregnant and alone with her secret. At a time Esch needs a mother the most, the memories of her mother fade all too quickly. She finds examples of motherhood in her brother,Skeetah and his pit bull, China, who has just given birth to a litter of puppies. Skeetah cares for China fiercely and is completely devoted to her well-being. China and Skeetah both care for the newborn pups who will be sold for dog fighting and the money used to support the Batiste family’s existence and endeavors to rise above their poverty. Esch narrates the story of her family with lush and poetic language interwoven with the classical mythology tale of Medea. Much like in mythology, all the battles, both real and emotional, are epic.

Jesmyn Ward deals in dualities making this book true to a life that is never simply black or white. The Batiste family (and their friends) live in poverty but have a richness of spirit making them resilient. Hurricane Katrina decimates the Gulf Coast, but reins in the family, forcing them to exist in one place and making them stronger. Skeetah and his pit bull, China, have a relationship built on the deepest filial love and brutally savage violence.

This 2011 National Book Award winner is a tough read. Sometimes I find a book so incredibly heart-breaking, I struggle to turn the page and consider closing the book. Ward, growing up in the rural Gulf Coast did not have a chance to turn the page either or close the book on her life. Instead, she put words to paper creating a beautiful novel, rich in hope. If you enjoy this book, I also recommend her highly acclaimed 2013 memoir, Men We Reaped.

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One Response to “Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward”

  1. Best ‘New to Us’ Books in 2014: Amy W’s Picks | Wake County Libraries "Book a Day" Staff Pick Says:

    […] Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward It wasn’t that the Batiste family decided to stay in their home while Hurricane Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast, it was that they had bigger battles consuming their lives. Every chapter moves the storm one day closer with some chapters the storm is not mentioned at all. Having never recovered from the death of their mother, Esch (the narrator), her brothers and her alcoholic father live a hand to mouth existence in rural Mississippi. As the storm approaches, their lives become unraveled. Esch, is fifteen, pregnant and alone with her secret. At a time Esch needs a mother the most, the memories of her mother fade all too quickly. This 2011 National Book Award winner is a tough read. Sometimes I find a book so incredibly heart-breaking, I struggle to turn the page and consider closing the book. Ward, growing up in the rural Gulf Coast did not have a chance to turn the page either or close the book on her life. Instead, she put words to paper creating a beautiful novel, rich in hope.  See my full review. […]

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