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Salvage the Bones: A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

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

by Jesmyn Ward

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Title:Salvage the Bones: A Novel
Authors:Jesmyn Ward
Info:Bloomsbury USA (2012), Edition: 1, Paperback, 288 pages
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Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (2011)


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I have no problem recommending this National Book Award winner to anyone. It takes place in a small Mississippi Gulf Coast town over the 10 or so days as Hurricane Katrina is building in the coast. The characters are real and endearing. Esch, the 14 year old narrator, is the surrogate mother for her three brothers (Their mother died giving birth to the youngest brother; the two other brothers are older than Esch). She is grappling with the fact that she may be pregnant. Her oldest brother Randall is a high school basketball star who lacks the means to go to an important basketball camp. Skeetah has a pitbull named China, who has just given birth to a litter of puppies. Despite his clearly conveyed deep love for his dog, Skeetah endangers her in brutal pitbull dog fights. He hopes to win the funds to allow Randall to attend the basketball camp. The youngest child, Junior, just wants to make sure that he doesn't miss out on anything.

The hurricane remains in the background for much of the book. The children are vaguely aware that it is out there, but are not at all apprehensive. Ward, however, skillfully builds the tension each day, to the point that I began to wonder how she was ever going to pull off the drama of the storm itself. Needless to say, she did. ( )
  arubabookwoman | Apr 20, 2017 |
Why do I keep finding books that contain animal cruelty, which is exactly the last thing I want to read about? This novel, in the main about Hurricane Katrina, also features dog fighting, which is so primitive a 'sport' that only small-membered men would ever want to participate, and teenage pregnancy, thrown in for good measure. I thought I was reading about Depression era Mississippi, so backwards are the characters, until the storm they're preparing for is named as Katrina (2005). The author lived through the devastation, so the atmosphere and sense of danger are the strongest elements of the story. I felt sorriest for China the dog and her puppies, though. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | Mar 7, 2017 |
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward is a powerful story about a poor Mississippi black family living in Bayou country as Hurricane Katrina gathers itself to strike. The main character is fourteen year old teenager Esch, who lives in a rundown shack on a piece of property they call The Pit. Esch lives with her three brothers and her father, their mother died seven years ago giving birth to the youngest son. The father works at odd jobs and nurses his anger with alcohol. The children are close, but have been left to raise themselves. Esch has a secret, she is pregnant. The father is one of her brother’s friends, Manny, whom she thinks she loves. But Manny is simply using her and really wants nothing to do with her. Alone, fearful and afraid to let her family know she is pregnant, she tries to hide it.

Another important element to the story is China, a white pit bull that one of her brothers has raised, loves and uses in dogfights. A word of warning, if the idea of dogfights and cruelty to animals upsets you, than this is probably not a story that you should read. I found that the story was told so realistically and openly that judgments really had no place. This is their life.

Meanwhile Katrina is lurking on the horizon, and although we know with hindsight how life changing this storm was, the vivid description was mesmerizing. Salvage the Bones is a big-hearted story about family that is told in almost musical prose. The author’s vision and passion delivers a magical story of love and caring that no amount of poverty change erase. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Feb 17, 2017 |
I loved the narrator, the story was great and suspenseful.... Too much heart break for me. I am reminded that I lead a very sheltered comfortable life! ( )
  LASMIT | Dec 31, 2016 |
A moving and interesting story. I will be interested in reading this writer as she matures - I thought the writing had a lot of wonderful elements, but there were at least three similes per page which got very tiring, very quickly.

I think this would be a great book for middle schoolers to learn about katrina. And also similes. Although the teen pregnancy and dog fighting might keep it off many teacher's shelves ( )
  abbeyhar | Nov 8, 2016 |
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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
For my brother, Joshua Adam Dedeaux,

who leads while I follow.
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China's turned on herself.
"To give life...is to know what's worth fighting for. And what's love."
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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)

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