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Salvage the Bones: A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
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Salvage the Bones: A Novel (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Jesmyn Ward

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8498110,586 (3.83)197
Member:WarmCavesInTheWoods
Title:Salvage the Bones: A Novel
Authors:Jesmyn Ward
Info:Bloomsbury USA (2012), Edition: 1, Paperback, 288 pages
Collections:Your library
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Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (2011)

  1. 10
    As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (LottaBerling)
  2. 00
    Wading Home: A Novel of New Orleans by Rosalyn Story (Citizenjoyce)
    Citizenjoyce: Another look at continuing racism as exposed by Katrina and its aftermath.
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Salvage the Bones centers on the character, Esch, who is a teenage girl in a family full of boys, one of whom, Skeetah, raises a fighting pitbull named China. The novel begins with China giving birth, which mirrors the seminal moment in the family’s life, when their mother died giving birth to her youngest son, Junior. Adding to the emotional tension Esch’s pregnancy with another Manny’s child. Esch is in love with Manny even though he is bad for her and is with another girl. This drama is set against the backdrop of the impending hurricane Katrina.

One of the things that made me like this book was how morally ambiguous it is. None of the characters are right or wrong. They are all just people with human motivations and follies. The closest that we come to a sense of right or wrong is that Manny comes off as an insensitive jerk at times, but even he has redeeming qualities, which become evident towards the end of the book.

I also loved the creative symmetry of the novel. The author, Jesmyn Ward, opens the novel with China giving birth. At the end of the novel, the focus is on the future and Esch’s pregnancy. At the novel’s climax, Hurricane Katrina is compared to a mother, and the memory of Esch’s mother who died giving birth permeates the novel. The idea of what it means to be a mother and the idea that a mother can be strong as well as nurturing is consistent throughout the novel. As a counterpoint, Big Henry, the largest male in the novel, is the most nurturing character, which again challenges the typical role of the mother as the nurturer and the father as the sense of strength. Again, this adds to the humanity of the characters and the depth of the novel.

I really liked this novel. It was enjoyable to read, and at times it made me think a bit about cultural attitudes, poverty, and what it must be like to go through a disaster. Ward manages to create empathy in the reader by portraying such human characters, which is admirable. I thought this all made for a very good book. ( )
2 vote fuzzy_patters | Jul 17, 2014 |
This book left me stunned! ( )
  Jolynne | Jul 4, 2014 |
I was surprised at how much I struggled to get through this book. I found the writing very hard to follow. Sometimes the writing was simple and sounded like something the protagonist would say or think and at other times it was straight out of a literary magazine. The author has an MFA and this certainly shows in her writing. I often felt like I was reading a required book for school. I did find the characters believable and found the writing about the hurricane itself to be quite descriptive but neither of those were enough to carry the story as a whole. ( )
  pbirch01 | May 16, 2014 |


Wow! The imagery & prose is just amazing in this book! It makes me want to write as well! ( )
  CMBlaker | May 6, 2014 |
there is so much that is so right about this book for me and so much that is so wrong - moments that were breathless and painful and beautiful and full of life, yet others were loaded with strange metaphors and overdone symbology and wordiness - i was often so distracted from the storyline that i considered stopping - yes, the story was painful but it didn't feel oppressive - and yes, the dog fighting was horrific - but that was not what stopped me from loving it - the uneven writing and, in my mind, the need for a good edit were way more problematic - ( )
  njinthesun | Apr 16, 2014 |
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Epigraph
See now that I, even I am he, and there is no god with me; I kill and I make alive, I wound and I heal, neither is there any can deliver out of my hand. -Deuteronomy 32:39

For though I'm small, I know many things, and my body is an endless eye through which, unfortunately, I see everything. -Gloria Fuertes, "Now"

We on our backs staring at the stars about, talking about what we going to be when we grow up, I said what you wanna be? She said, "Alive." -Outkast, "Da Art of Storytellin' (Part 1)," Aquemini
Dedication
For my brother, Joshua Adam Dedeaux,

who leads while I follow.
First words
China's turned on herself.
Quotations
"To give life...is to know what's worth fighting for. And what's love."
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
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. 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 their 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. A big-hearted novel about familial love and community against all odds, and a wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty, Salvage the Bones is muscled with poetry, revelatory, and real.
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Enduring a hardscrabble existence as the children of alcoholic and absent parents, four siblings from a coastal Mississippi town prepare their meager stores for the arrival of Hurricane Katrina while struggling with such challenges as a teen pregnancy and a dying litter of prize pups.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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