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Salvage the Bones

A Novel

by Jesmyn Ward

Salvage the Bones
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • Published in USA  Sep 2011
    272 pages
    Genre: Novels

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There are currently 20 reader reviews for Salvage the Bones
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Barbara (05/22/12)

Unpleasant Novel
The book is written by a Stanford graduate whose narrator is a 14-year old black girl from a poverty stricken background. Though the character uses poor grammar upon occasion her vocabulary is that of a Stanford graduate. Her comparison to Medea is pretentious and does nothing to alleviate the general unpleasantness of the novel, which is never alleviated by humor or lightness of any kind. The descriptions are well done and unlikely from our protagonist. It is supposedly about surviving Katrina which has very little effect on the family. They suddenly manage to get to an unaffected neighborhood with people who will care for them, and Esch is even told by Big Henry that he will take care of her. It is almost fairy tale like ending to a dreadful story. There is no pleasure in reading this book.
Andi (11/03/11)

Salvage the Bones
This book is in no way worthy of a National Book Award. In these times of "Oprah" rated best sellers, it just doesn't meet the cut! I didn't like the book!
Kathy G. (Alamo, CA) (08/23/11)

Savage the Bones
On one hand it is was hard to read about a poor Mississippi family, and on the other hand, the story turned out to be a moving portrayal of survival. It was often hard to read due to the hard edges of very difficult realities as seen through the eyes of children. I would recommend this book with reservation.
Cecelia (08/12/11)

near miss
The title “Salvage the Bones” was intriguing to me, but I do not understand the connection of the title with the narrative. Although there were many things needing rescue or salvaging, none of these things made me think of bones. I also had difficulty connecting the dog fights with the rest of the story. I did like the various themes on motherhood as seen in the mother dog, Esch’s mother who had died, and how Esch would have to come to terms with her own unexpected pregnancy.
The author captured the voice of a fourteen year old girl well in that most 14 year olds know how pregnancy occurs but think that it will not happen to them. She also brings in a common theme of an adolescent girl making poor choices about which boy she will pursue and mistaking sex for love. The narrator comparing her own life to the story of Medea may have been a stretch, but may be believable from a histrionic fourteen year old’s point of view. The name of the homestead “the Pit” was confusing especially when used in the same sentence as the pit bull dogs. This book gets good at the climax during the action of the flooding but then just fizzles out. The only resolution is that Esch does see that her quest for love, like Medea’s, was not going to turn out quite the way she would have scripted it.
Pamela B. (Monona, WI, WI) (08/07/11)

Salvage the Bones
Salvage the Bones is not a happy tale. The story centers around a poor family in rural Mississippi, struggling after the death of the matriarch leaves them without direction. The siblings seem to live separate lives, but come together when needed. When life goes from bad to worse, the best comes out.
Claire M. (New York, NY) (08/07/11)

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) (08/03/11)

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) (07/27/11)

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.
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