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Salvage the Bones
Cover of Salvage the Bones
Salvage the Bones
A Novel
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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 doesn't 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. While 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 comprise the novel's framework yield to the final day and Hurricane Katrina, the unforgettable family at the novel's heart—motherless children sacrificing for each other as they can, protecting and nurturing where love is scarce—pulls itself up to struggle for another day. A wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty, Salvage the Bone is muscled with poetry, revelatory, and real.

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 doesn't 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. While 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 comprise the novel's framework yield to the final day and Hurricane Katrina, the unforgettable family at the novel's heart—motherless children sacrificing for each other as they can, protecting and nurturing where love is scarce—pulls itself up to struggle for another day. A wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty, Salvage the Bone is muscled with poetry, revelatory, and real.

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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Jesmyn Ward grew up in DeLisle, Mississippi. She received her MFA from the University of Michigan, where she won five Hopwood awards for essays, drama, and fiction. A Stegner Fellow at Stanford, from 2008-2010, she has been named the 2010-11 Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi. Her debut novel, Where the Line Bleeds, was an Essence Magazine Book Club selection, a Black Caucus of the ALA Honor Award recipient, and a finalist for both the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from May 23, 2011
    Ward's poetic second novel (after Where the Line Bleeds) covers the 12 days leading up to Hurricane Katrina via the rich, mournful voice of Esch Batiste, a pregnant 14-year-old black girl living with her three brothers and father in dire poverty on the edge of Bois Sauvage, Miss. Stricken with morning sickness and dogged by hunger, Esch helps her drunken father prepare their home for the gathering storm. She also looks after seven-year-old Junior while her oldest brother, Randall, trains to win a scholarship to basketball camp, and middle son Skeet devotes himself to delivering and raising his fighting bitch China's pit bull puppies. All the while, Esch ponders whether she will have the baby and yearns for its father to love her "once he learns secret." Esch traces in the minutiae of every moment of every scene of her life the thin lines between passion and violence, love and hate, life and death, and though her voice threatens to overpower the story, it does a far greater service to the book by giving its cast of small lives a huge resonance.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from December 1, 2011
    An evocative novel of a family torn apart by grief, hardship, misunderstanding and, soon, the biggest storm any of them has ever seen. Set over a dozen days while awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Katrina, and then dealing with its consequences, Ward's (Where the Line Bleeds, 2008) tale is superficially a simple one: Young Esch, barely a teenager, is pregnant. She is so young, in fact, that her brothers can scare her with a Hansel and Gretel story set in the Mississippi bayou where she lives, yet old enough to understand that the puppies that are gushing forth from the family dog are more than a metaphor. Esch's task is simple, too: She has to disguise the pregnancy from her widowed father, a task that is easier than it might sound, since her father is constantly self-medicated ("Outside the window, Daddy jabbed at the belly of the house with his can of beer") and, much of the time, seems unaware that his children ought to be depending on him. But they don't; Esch and her three brothers are marvels of self-sufficiency, and as the vast storm looms on the horizon, building from tropical depression to category 5 monster, they occupy themselves figuring out what kind of canned meats they need to lay in and how many jugs of water have to be hauled from the store. The bayou has its share of terrors of other kinds, and so do the matters of life and death that children ought to be spared; suffice it to say that there's plenty of blood, and no small amount of vomit, whether owing to morning sickness or alcohol poisoning. (When Esch admonishes her father for drinking while taking antibiotics, he replies, "Beer ain't nothing...Just like a cold drink.") Naturally, in a situation where the children are the adults and vice versa, something has to give—and it does, straight in the maw of Katrina. Yet the fury of the storm yields a kind of redemption, a scenario that could dissolve into mawkishness, but that Ward pulls off without a false note. A superbly realized work of fiction that, while Southern to the bone, transcends its region to become universal.

    (COPYRIGHT (2011) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  • Library Journal

    April 15, 2011

    As Ward's novel opens, a pregnant 14-year-old in Bois Sauvage, MS, watches the family's pit bull give birth while recalling her mother's childbed death and her own early sexual experiences. That charged, vivid overlapping continues throughout (on a quick look), as Ward deploys language at once lyric and punch-sharp to portray the struggle, despair, and tenderness of one poor African American family--day by day for 12 days, up until Katrina storms forth and takes away everything. Stegner fellow Ward's first novel, Where the Line Bleeds, won several prizes, including the American Library Association Black Caucus Honor Award. This looks both beautiful and heartbreaking and would be excellent for book clubs.

    Copyright 2011 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Jesmyn Ward
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