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Non 1001 Book Review: Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

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What happens when the lives of a poor family in Mississippi clash with hurricane Katrina?

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Published in: 2012
Literary Awards: National book award for fiction 2011
Reviewed by: Book Worm
Rating: [★★★]
Find it here: [jen will add amazon link]

This ARC was provided by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc(via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis 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. He’s a hard drinker, largely absent, and it isn’t often he worries about the family. Esch and her three brothers are stocking up on food, but there isn’t much to save. Lately, Esch can’t keep down what food she gets; at fifteen, she has just realized that she’s pregnant. Her brother Skeetah is sneaking scraps for his prized pit bull’s new litter, dying one by one. 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 a 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.

BookWorm’s Thoughts: I can’t honestly say I enjoyed this book, due to the subject matter this is not a book designed for the reader’s enjoyment instead it is a snap shot of a poor black family in Mississippi who get caught up in the devastation that is hurricane Katrina.

We only spend 12 days with the family before, during and immediately after Katrina hits and destroys their home and their lives. In these 12 days we get to know the motherless children through the eyes of 15 year old Esch the only girl in a household of 5. Their story is tragic before the hurricane hits and the impact of Katrina can only make things worse. The story ends immediately after Katrina has hit and the family has seen the devastation not just of their home but of the surrounding areas as well. While the build up to the hurricane shows a bleak way of life the ending after everything is destroyed is ironically hopeful. I would have liked to spend more time with Esch post Katrina to follow how the family rebuild and what the future holds for them, although I will allow that leaving the reader wondering does have more impact.

This book will not be for everyone due to the brutal descriptions of dog fighting and particularly injuries sustained by the animals. It is not a light and fluffy book where puppies face mild peril but survive. Instead this is a hard hitting realistic portrayal of the value these puppies hold as a way of making money for the human family, it also hammers home the point that poverty impacts animals as well as humans if you are struggling to feed your family how can you afford meds for ill animals?

The description of the hurricane and its impact is terrifying you can only imagine how this must have actually felt to those living through it.

While the story is bleak there are moments of beautiful writing:

“Would they look clear as jelly with firefly hearts, or would they look as solid and silent as stone? Would they show their mystery, or would they cover it like a secret? Would a human egg let itself be seen?”

“The heat beats at the car like Mardi Gras parade-goers looking for a ride.”

“Every house had faced the hurricane, and every house had lost.”

Who would like this? Firstly a warning if you can’t read about animal violence, injuries and death you should probably avoid this book as it contains a lot of this. If you want a perspective on how it felt to live through Katrina and you appreciate bleak but beautiful writing give this a go.

Want to try it for yourself? You can find a copy here: [Jen will add amazon link]

We want to hear from you! Have you read this book? What did you think?

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