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Salvage the Bones: A Novel Paperback – April 24, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; Reprint edition (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781608196265
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608196265
  • ASIN: 1608196267
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (365 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

2011 National Book Award Winner

NPR Bestseller

IndieBound National Indie Bestseller
San Francisco Chronicle Best Books of 2011

Kansas City Star Top 100 Books of the Year

Atlanta Journal-Constitution Best of the South 2011

Shelf Awareness, Reviewer’s Choice, Top 10 of 2011

More.com, Hottest Fall Novels

Oprah.com, Books to Watch and Book of the Week

Huffington Post, The Best Upcoming Books

Vogue.com, Fall Blockbuster Fiction

"The first great novel about Katrina." —Kate Tuttle, Boston Globe

"[A] searing, understated, and big-hearted novel." —Salon

"Salvage the Bones is an intense book, with powerful, direct prose that dips into poetic metaphor . . . We are immersed in Esch’s world, a world in which birth and death nestle close, where there is little safety except that which the siblings create for each other. That close-knit familial relationship is vivid and compelling, drawn with complexities and detail." —Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times

"I’ve just read [Salvage the Bones] and it’ll be a long time before its magic wears off...Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretention, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy . . . A palpable sense of desire and sorrow animates every page here . . . Salvage the Bones has the aura of a classic about it." —Ron Charles, Washington Post

"A timeless tale of a family that regains its humanity in the face of incalculable loss." —Gina Webb, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

"Jesmyn Ward has claimed her place both as a contemporary witness of life in the rural south and as a descendant of its great originals." —Nicholas Delbanco, author of Sherbrookes and Lastingness: The Art of Old Age

"The narrator’s voice sparks with beauty as it urges the reader through this moving story set in the shadow of Katrina." — Zoë Triska, Huffington Post

"Jesmyn Ward has written . . . the first Katrina-drenched fiction I’d press upon readers now." —Karen R. Long, Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

"Ward’s redolent prose conjures the magic and menace of the southern landscape." —Elizabeth Hoover, Dallas Morning News

"The novel’s power comes from the dread of the approaching storm and a pair of violent climaxes. The first is a dog fight, an appalling spectacle given emotional depth by Skeetah’s love for the pit bull China (their bond is the strongest and most affecting in the book). When the hurricane strikes, Ms. Ward endows it, too, with attributes maternal and savage: ‘Katrina is the mother we will remember until the next mother with large merciless hands, committed to blood, comes.’ " —Wall Street Journal

"From its lyrical yet visceral first scene, this novel had me, and I hardly dared to put it down for fear a spell might be broken. But it never was or will be; such are the gifts of this writer." —Laura Kasischke, author of In a Perfect World

"Without a false note . . . A superbly realized work of fiction that, while Southern to the bone, transcends its region to become universal." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"With her tough, tense and taut tale of one rural family’s bitter and bloody fight for survival in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina, [Ward] has secured herself a place among such other great Southern writers as Flannery O’Connor, Harper Lee and William Faulkner. Ward’s electrifying, exhilarating, edge-of-your-seat second novel, Salvage the Bones, takes us into the naked heart of one Southern family struggling for both survival and identity. With prose both powerful and poetic, Ward has imagined an unforgettable family." —CityBeat (Cincinnati)

"Ward uses fearless, toughly lyrical language to convey this family’s close-knit tenderness [and] the sheer bloody-minded difficulty of rural African American life . . . It’s an eye-opening heartbreaker that ends in hope . . . You owe it to yourself to read this book." —Library Journal (starred review)

"Few works of fiction can capture the heart-wrenching emotions attached to a natural disaster, and fewer still can do it in a way that seems palpable and fresh. Salvage the Bones, the latest by rising star Jesmyn Ward, accomplishes this feat, and then some . . . From beginning to end, Jesmyn flirts with perfection in this stunning second novel, and the reader is rewarded for it." —Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA)

"A pitch-perfect account of struggle and community in the rural South . . . Though the characters in Salvage the Bones face down Hurricane Katrina, the story isn’t really about the storm. It’s about people facing challenges, and how they band together to overcome adversity." —BookPage

"[Salvage the Bones] is uncompromising and frank, showing both beauty and violence, poverty and resilience, in a powerful and poetic voice." —Sun Herald (Biloxi, MS)

 

About the Author

Jesmyn Ward grew up in DeLisle, Mississippi. She received her MFA from the University of Michigan, where she won five Hopwood awards for essays, drama, and fiction. A Stegner Fellow at Stanford, from 2008-2010, she has been named the 2010-11 Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi. Her debut novel, Where the Line Bleeds, was an Essence Magazine Book Club selection, a Black Caucus of the ALA Honor Award recipient, and a finalist for both the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award.

More About the Author

Jesmyn Ward is a former Stegner fellow at Stanford and Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi. Her novels, Where the Line Bleeds and Salvage the Bones, are both set on the Mississippi coast where she grew up. Bloomsbury will publish her memoir about an epidemic of deaths of young black men in her community. She is an Assistant Professor at the University of South Alabama.

Customer Reviews

This is a beautifully written story.
Melissa King
They were interesting only because the author seemed to put more effort into developing them than the other characters in the book.
Amazon Customer
As soon as I finished this book, I wanted to start it again.
A. Prentice

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

144 of 156 people found the following review helpful By Southern Mississippi VINE VOICE on July 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Salvage the Bones may be Jesmyn Ward's first novel, but what a novel.

Each character is as alive as any ever put to a page, from the dog, China, and her dog fights, to the father, and his inability to cope as a widowed father of four. It's not a pretty story filled with flowers and perfumes, but a story of poverty and strength, hope and love, climaxing as the winds and waters of Katrina send the family into the swirling waters and howling winds to find their own salvation from the storm.

Just like it seemed to all of those who survived the Storm, the days leading up to it were bigger than life, filled with the little things that made life normal as well as preparation for the storm's arrival. Just like reality, no one expected Katrina to deliver the blow it did. From Esch's pregnancy, their father's accident, the dog China and her pups, and the tragedy of youth, each character colors the tale and brings it to life.

No one knew when the storm came that it was going to have the raw power it possessed. Caught in the attic, the storm surge rising, the reality of potentially drowning in their own attic grasps their attention, and in a desperate bid to find safety, a hole is smashed through the roof, and their escape is plotted. It's not without risk, and it comes with loss, but the family all make it to their temporary haven.

It's a powerful story,but its not a pretty story. It ends in the chaos and confusion of the first post-storm days after Katrina, with food and water in desperate shortage and yet it finds the grace and beauty that the best of humanity possesses. It has a real-ness about it that is rare, and the book is one of the best reads I've had in a long time.

I highly recommend it.
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65 of 69 people found the following review helpful By esplicito con beige on February 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
"Salvage the Bones" is set in rural Mississippi, the summer of 2005. The whole novel leads up to the explosion of Hurricane Katrina, but it focuses on two parallel story lines: Esch and China. Fourteen year-old Esch has been the woman of the house, caring for her alcoholic father and brood of brothers, since her mother's death years before. She is also pregnant. Esch dreams constantly of the baby's father, an older boy as gorgeous as he is unattainable. I felt that Ward captures what it feels like to be a teenage girl, and in love, quite convincingly. Sensitive yet matter-of-fact, intelligent yet foolish and impulsive like any teenager, Esch seems like a real girl to me. I would love to read a sequel about her. Most of the other characters were quite likable and convincing as well.

China is the snow-white pit bull whom Esch's brother Skeetah treats as lovingly as his own child (even as he trains her to be a fierce fighting dog). China herself has just had puppies, and the novel explicitly links the fates of Esch and China, which I suppose says a lot about what it feels like to be a poor black girl in the South. This book reminded me of both "The Color Purple" (published in 1982) and "Their Eyes Were Watching God" (published in 1937, and definitely my favorite of the three), and I found it kind of sad that Esch's life shared so many similarities with those of Celie and Janie. She struggles with both the same kind of relentless poverty and the same abuses on account of her gender.

One false note I felt the author struck was in endlessly alluding back to the myth of Medea and Jason, which has the effect of jarring the reader out of the story. As a teenage girl you are experiencing everything for the first time, things that (in your mind) no one has ever experienced before, and trying to tie Esch back into ancient Greek myth feels somehow false. This story and its characters are rich enough on their own.
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61 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Heather ORoark on September 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Fourteen-year-old Esch, who has just found out that she's pregnant, is simply trying to keep things at home together when she and her family learn of the hurricane that is about to hit their home in Bois Savage, Mississippi. Esch's father, a man who spends most of his time drinking, is concerned about the hurricane and tries to get she and her three brothers to board up windows and get the canned goods together in preparation. Her brother Randall begins this process, her brother Junior tries but is too young to do much, but her brother Skeetah is too busy nursing his pit bull fighter, China, back to health after the birth of her puppies. As this family struggles to pull themselves together, the hurricane becomes the backdrop for all the trials they regularly face in day-to-day life.

Salvage the Bones is unlike any novel I've read before. It is so honest, so raw, and at times so painful that I wanted to close the book and run away, but ultimately I was deeply moved by this story. Esch and her family crawled into my heart and their struggles were so palpable that I wanted to reach through the pages of the book and lift them out.

This book is not an easy read. It broke my heart a million times over. China, Skeetah's pit bull, is a fighting dog and as a person who loves pit bulls and has some very close family and friends who have pits as pets, the whole dogfighting business makes me extremely angry. So it was not the best for me to be reading about people fighting these precious, intelligent, loving, sweet animals. This was probably the most difficult aspect of the book for me, although the family does experience the actual hurricane and that portion of the book was hard to read too.
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