Book Review: Salvage the Bones

Author: Jesmyn Ward

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Copyright date: August 2011

Pages: 272

Genre: Southern Literature

Reason for Reading: A guest post the author wrote intrigued me.

Rating: A

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.

About Margot

I'm also known as Joyfully Retired. I love to talk. I love to talk about books I've read, movies I've seen, places I've traveled to, people (especially my children and grandchildren), and Food. On the Quirky Girls Read blog I'm trying to read all the books that have won the major awards and then, of course, talk about them.
This entry was posted in Award Winners, Fiction, Posts by Margot and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Book Review: Salvage the Bones

  1. I’m sort of afraid to read this one! Sounds very sad to me. But your description of how you felt the storm coming is very compelling!

    • Margot says:

      I can’t say I was scared while reading the story. When the hurricane hit I worried a bit. I mostly felt sad for them and their hardscrabble life.

  2. Say “Southern” and you have this Florida writer’s attention. Great review. I look forward to reading Salvage the Bones.

    • Margot says:

      If you want Southern, it’s in this book. The author is a young woman who grew up in the South and definitely chose to reflect that in her writing. Eudora Welty is one of those she admires enormously. I felt a little bit of Eudora in her story.

  3. BermudaOnion says:

    I heard the author speak at SIBA and have been anxious to read the book. It seems people either love it or hate it, though.

    • Margot says:

      I think I fall somewhere in the middle on this book. What I did feel was a great admiration for the author. She is a very gifted writer. I envy your opportunity to meet her.

  4. kaye says:

    Another great recommendation, I enjoyed your review. Are you still starting the “Ramona Forever” read-a-long today. I bought the book and wanted to link up.

    • Margot says:

      Thanks Kaye. Today is the start or the Forever read-along, however, it’s Forever by Judy Blume.

      I know the Beverly Cleary book you are talking about. I have a special fondness for the Ramona books. The author is from Portland, Oregon where my oldest daughter and her family live. In fact my oldest granddaughter’s middle name is Quimby, just like Ramona’s family. We call her Q. (Sorry, I’m digressing.) Would you like to read Ramona Forever together in addition to Forever?

  5. Ti says:

    I have this one but haven’t started it yet. I love powerful books but to be honest, some readers have scared me a bit with this one by saying that it was too hard to digest and get through.

    • Margot says:

      This book fit the way I read to a T. I like to read in small patches in several books at a time. For me it’s like visiting with different friends, one at a time, in different places and different times. I’ve never had a problem mixing them up. I guess I’m lucky that way.

      I took Salvage the Bones in small bites over the last month and a half. It’s not what I think of as a page turner, like a mystery. Jesmyn Ward’s writing, in my opinion, is to be savored. I found myself re-reading parts as well as reading out loud. Visually, the story is gritty, but the writing – beautiful.

  6. JoAnn says:

    I was wondering how you’d react to this one! Guess I need to check it out of the library again… but this time I’ll actually read it 😉

  7. Margot says:

    Well, it wasn’t the kind of book I normally like to read. In this challenge of mine to read these award-winners, I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone at times. The setting for this book was foreign to me, yet I could easily identify with the humans in the story.

  8. stacybuckeye says:

    I was so close to picking this up at the library last week. If only I’d read your review first!

  9. Mary R. says:

    I agree, this was a beautifully written book and well deserving of the NB Award.

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