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Salvage the Bones

A Novel

by Jesmyn Ward

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward X
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2011
    272 pages
    Genre: Novels

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  • Claire M. (New York, NY)


    Salvage the Bones
    This is so well written that I even got through most of the dog fight. Narrated by a young girl, Esch, who describes her daily life in a swamp in Louisiana as Katrina comes closer and finally bears down on the poorest of the poor, it is a heartbreaking story but one that also shows the inner strength of our forgotten neighbors. Comparing herself to Medea in the way her own life unfolds, Esch lives out the treachery of living in poverty and the choices that are made. Metaphor, simile, and the gloriously descriptive use of language lead me to believe Jesmyn Ward will be telling stories for a long time.
  • Tricia L. (Auburn, WA)


    Heartwrenching poverty and suffering in a powerful tale.
    Wow. This book put me right there watching the run-up and aftermath of Katrina. It is so eye-opening and yet I feel like there is hope for us all because of these brave characters. Great read.
  • Mary B. (Roswell, GA)


    Beautiful and Heartbreaking Story
    Salvage the Bones is the story of a family on the Gulf coast readying for Hurricane Katrina. The family is poor, black, motherless yet they work together to prepare for the hurricane, all of them doing the best they can.

    The main character is a young teenage girl, named Esch, who is struggling to accept a pregnancy while longing for a confidante or some kind of help for her seemingly impossible situation. She is smitten with the baby's father, but he doesn't love her. The story of Medea is interwoven into the narrative. Will the girl betray her family for her lover or remain faithful to her father and brothers?

    The character of the father is fascinating. He is the only one who really understands the severity of the oncoming storm and although he works as hard as possible to protect his family and their home, tearing apart outbuildings and raiding wood from an abandoned house, he ends up being unable to do much for the family during the actual storm, serving as an example of the younger generation coming of age.

    One of the sons, Skeetah, has a white pit bull dog named China, who has a litter of puppies in the story. Skeetah nurtures her as if she were a lover, and a dangerous one at that. I had a hard time with the cruelty and violence of the dog fighting scenes, but the author does a good job of putting them into context of the narrative and letting you understand the motivations of members of the dog fighting culture.

    Overall, it is a story of a family's loyalty to each other in the face of a dangerous natural disaster. They manage to cope in the only ways that they can and in the end discover who in their community they can really trust.

    I would recommend this book to readers who like more serious and literary reading. This is not light beach book.
  • Judi S. (Boyes Hot Springs, CA)


    Salvage the Bones
    Salvage the Bones blew through my life much like Hurricane Katrina roared through Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, and the lives of the Batiste family.
    The day to day details of life for pregnant 14 year old Esch and her brothers are often brutal and difficult to read, but Ward's gorgeous writing and her ability to help us see through Esch's eyes and love with her heart make it worth the discomfort.
    I adore a strong character-driven book and Savage the Bones is bursting with heroes! This would be a fantastic choice for a book group. Savage the Bones shines a light on one of America's greatest tragedies and gives a voice to some of it's most invisible inhabitants.
  • Kelly P. (Monterey, TN)


    A captivating tale
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The setting and the language immerse the reader in the life of a poor Mississippi family in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina. While Hurricane Katrina lurks in the background it is not the focal point of the novel. Instead the plot revolves around the characters and how their own decisions, and the decisions of their loved ones, impacts their lives. The writing style is reminiscent of other Southern authors such as William Gay, Larry Brown and Tom Franklin which is high praise in my opinion.
  • Beth T. (Savannah, GA)


    Gritty and Beautifully Wrought
    This is an amazing book. It's not for the faint of heart or overly sensitive. The subject matter is hard to get through sometimes, but the author's writing is so beautiful and poetic that it somehow softens the hard edges of harsh reality and helps the reader become immersed in the characters and their story. I found myself caring about these people and what happened to them, and wasn't ready to put the book down when I turned the last page. Ms. West's is a unique and powerful voice in Southern fiction and I recommend "Salvage the Bones" as a very good read.
  • Eileen P. (Pittsford, NY)


    Lyric and heartbreaking
    What an incredible book! Salvage the Bones is a moving portrayal of a family, made up mostly of children, trying to do their best amidst rural poverty. The social and natural landscape where these characters live is unforgiving and harsh, but Jasmyn Ward shows how it is also a place where kindness and love play a particularly important role. It would be an excellent discussion book as it raises so many important social issues in an enlightening and nonjudgmental way.
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