Salvage the Bones Paperback – 12 Apr 2012
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Beautifully written ... A powerful depiction of grinding poverty, where somehow amid the deprivation, the flame of filial affection survives and a genuine spirit of community is able to triumph over everything the system and nature can throw at it (Daily Mail)
Masterful... Salvage the Bones has the aura of a classic about it (Washington Post)
A brilliantly pacy adventure-story as the family battles to escape the rising tide. The pages fly past with heart-stopping intensity... Ward writes like a dream. A real dream: uneasy, vivid and deep as the sea (The Times)
The novel's hugeness of heart and fierceness of family grip hold on like Skeetah's pit bull (Oprah Magazine)
WINNER OF THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARDSee all Product description
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The only reason it gets 2 rather than 1 star is that it's a part of 21st America that both geographically and culturally I had never seen depicted in a novel. In that respect, and that respect alone it was interesting.
Set in America's deep South, Jesmyn Ward tells the tale of a family wracked by poverty, broken by death and with only one thing on their minds- survival. I expected gritty realism but what I got was so much more than that as I was drawn in to the beauty of the world Ward creates. The Pit where Esch, the novels' narrator, lives is grimy and sticky with heat, but the sun shines orange through the crawling trees buzzing with insects. With Jesmyn Ward's astonishing writing style, metaphorical, poetic and beautiful in the most readable way, this novel reads like a dream. The surrounding forest in which the family live in their bare and broken trailer, dogs howl, leaves float to the ground and birds, sometimes, sing. Written from the perspective of Esch, the intimate family relationships evoked a real bond between the book and I, especially the tense brotherly bond between Skeetah and Randall, and the way Esch reads Skeet in the way only sisters can. Little Junior reminds me of a stray cub, wild, but loved and protected fiercely. You find yourself feeling the young Esch's emotions perhaps more coherently than even she can.
Esch has two mothers in her life. Her birth mother's ghost pervades the novel as if alive. We hear her and smell her, and she is as real as China- the mother of the puppies, and Skeet's whole world. China the 'cocaine white' Pitbull is unexpectedly one of the key characters in the book, as unpredictable as the storm.
When I find a book I love, knowing a bit about the writer always seems to open my eyes. Knowing that Ward herself grew up in Mississippi and experienced Hurricane Katrina makes her prose ring even clearer. But believe me, this isn't the Katrina that you saw on the news.
My favourite thing about Salvage the Bones is the way Ward weaves life and death so breathtakingly closely. The climax which Ward builds her novel around has to be read to be believed; the hurricane is the 'murderous mother who cut us to the bone but left us alive, left us naked and bewildered as newborn babies.'
Not too long, it can easily be read in a few sittings. Need I say more? Buy this book! It will be over too soon, but you will love life for it.