Copyright date: August 2011
Genre: Southern Literature
Reason for Reading: A guest post the author wrote intrigued me.
Award Won: National Book Award for Fiction, 2011
The guest post I mentioned above, written by the author here, was so honest and sincere that I knew I wanted to read her story. She said she “wanted to write Salvage the Bones because [she] loved these characters so much [that she] wanted them to speak.”
She wrote about her reason for writing this particular story:
I wanted to write a book that revolved around the kind of young women I grew up with; I wanted to pen a love letter to them. Specifically, I wanted to write about a young girl who is growing up in a world full of men, and I wanted to explore how she understands womanhood, how she fares under all the pressures that bear down on poor black girls in the South.
The story that developed from the author’s goals is beautifully crafted. It’s the story of a poor black family living in the backwoods of Mississippi down on the Gulf Coast. It covers the ten days prior to Hurricane Katrina and a few days afterwards.
Esch is the fifteen-year-old girl Jesmyn Ward created. She has three brothers, a dad who’s usually off drinking, and a whole pack of boys who come around to play basketball with her older brothers. Esch’s life is hard, but she loves to escape by pretending she’s one of the Greek goddesses in the book her English teacher assigned for summer reading. Esch, sexually active since age 12, is now pregnant by one of her brother’s friends.
Esch’s brother Skeetah was as also a compelling a character. He was a character that had been in Ms. Ward’s head for a long time.
There was something about the strange love that Skeetah felt for his dog that fascinated me. As I wrote the novel, I discovered that the strange love Skeetah felt for his dog was only one of many loves that would be central to the book and influence Esch’s understanding of womanhood and motherhood.
The characters are central to Salvage the Bones. The coming hurricane and their preparation for it are the backdrop against which the story unfolds day by day. The author’s description of the area and the people made me feel as if were right there and I could feel the approaching storm.
As you can see I enjoyed reading about Salvage the Bones directly from the author. I was so glad when I heard she was the “come from behind” winner of the National Book Award. I think the judges did an excellent job in choosing this one.