Salvage the Bones: A Novel
Salvage the Bones: A Novel
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Annotation: Set in the days surrounding Hurricane Katrina, this story examines an impoverished, dysfunctional rural family as they first prepare for, then start to recover from, the storm.
Catalog Number: #5003989
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition Date: 2011
Pages: 261 p.
Availability: Available
ISBN: 1-608-19522-8
ISBN 13: 978-1-608-19522-0
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2010053025
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
ALA Booklist
Esch, 14 and secretly pregnant, is frantic knowing she hasn't the money for either an abortion or for the baby-to-be. Meanwhile, after Mama's death, Daddy has taken to drink, but whenever he's sober d sometimes even when he's not is struggling to prepare their rural Mississippi property for the ominous advent of Hurricane Katrina. Meanwhile Brother Skeetah's pit bull has had puppies, which the boy plans to raise and sell. Soaringly tall brother Randall hopes for a basketball scholarship, and Junior, the youngest, simply drives everyone crazy. Here is an impoverished African American family that, if it didn't have bad luck, would have no luck at all. And yet the family endures despite privation, even despite the hurricane. Author Ward has an unfortunate tendency to overwrite, and this coming-of-age story tends at times to get lost in its style. In addition, Ward's surprising equation of Esch with the mythological Medea is less than completely successful. However, these problems are redeemed by the empathetic family she has created.
Kirkus Reviews
An evocative novel of a family torn apart by grief, hardship, misunderstanding and, soon, the biggest storm any of them has ever seen. Set over a dozen days while awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Katrina, and then dealing with its consequences, Ward's (Where the Line Bleeds, 2008) tale is superficially a simple one: Young Esch, barely a teenager, is pregnant. She is so young, in fact, that her brothers can scare her with a Hansel and Gretel story set in the Mississippi bayou where she lives, yet old enough to understand that the puppies that are gushing forth from the family dog are more than a metaphor. Esch's task is simple, too: She has to disguise the pregnancy from her widowed father, a task that is easier than it might sound, since her father is constantly self-medicated ("Outside the window, Daddy jabbed at the belly of the house with his can of beer") and, much of the time, seems unaware that his children ought to be depending on him. But they don't; Esch and her three brothers are marvels of self-sufficiency, and as the vast storm looms on the horizon, building from tropical depression to category 5 monster, they occupy themselves figuring out what kind of canned meats they need to lay in and how many jugs of water have to be hauled from the store. The bayou has its share of terrors of other kinds, and so do the matters of life and death that children ought to be spared; suffice it to say that there's plenty of blood, and no small amount of vomit, whether owing to morning sickness or alcohol poisoning. (When Esch admonishes her father for drinking while taking antibiotics, he replies, "Beer ain't nothing...Just like a cold drink.") Naturally, in a situation where the children are the adults and vice versa, something has to give—and it does, straight in the maw of Katrina. Yet the fury of the storm yields a kind of redemption, a scenario that could dissolve into mawkishness, but that Ward pulls off without a false note. A superbly realized work of fiction that, while Southern to the bone, transcends its region to become universal.
Publishers Weekly
Ward's poetic second novel (after Where the Line Bleeds) covers the 12 days leading up to Hurricane Katrina via the rich, mournful voice of Esch Batiste, a pregnant 14-year-old black girl living with her three brothers and father in dire poverty on the edge of Bois Sauvage, Miss. Stricken with morning sickness and dogged by hunger, Esch helps her drunken father prepare their home for the gathering storm. She also looks after seven-year-old Junior while her oldest brother, Randall, trains to win a scholarship to basketball camp, and middle son Skeet devotes himself to delivering and raising his fighting bitch China's pit bull puppies. All the while, Esch ponders whether she will have the baby and yearns for its father to love her "once he learns secret." Esch traces in the minutiae of every moment of every scene of her life the thin lines between passion and violence, love and hate, life and death, and though her voice threatens to overpower the story, it does a far greater service to the book by giving its cast of small lives a huge resonance. (Sept.)
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
An evocative novel of a family torn apart by grief, hardship, misunderstanding and, soon, the biggest storm any of them has ever seen. Set over a dozen days while awaiting the arrival of Hurricane Katrina, and then dealing with its consequences, Ward's (Where the Line Bleeds, 2008) tale is superficially a simple one: Young Esch, barely a teenager, is pregnant. She is so young, in fact, that her brothers can scare her with a Hansel and Gretel story set in the Mississippi bayou where she lives, yet old enough to understand that the puppies that are gushing forth from the family dog are more than a metaphor. Esch's task is simple, too: She has to disguise the pregnancy from her widowed father, a task that is easier than it might sound, since her father is constantly self-medicated ("Outside the window, Daddy jabbed at the belly of the house with his can of beer") and, much of the time, seems unaware that his children ought to be depending on him. But they don't; Esch and her three brothers are marvels of self-sufficiency, and as the vast storm looms on the horizon, building from tropical depression to category 5 monster, they occupy themselves figuring out what kind of canned meats they need to lay in and how many jugs of water have to be hauled from the store. The bayou has its share of terrors of other kinds, and so do the matters of life and death that children ought to be spared; suffice it to say that there's plenty of blood, and no small amount of vomit, whether owing to morning sickness or alcohol poisoning. (When Esch admonishes her father for drinking while taking antibiotics, he replies, "Beer ain't nothing...Just like a cold drink.") Naturally, in a situation where the children are the adults and vice versa, something has to give—and it does, straight in the maw of Katrina. Yet the fury of the storm yields a kind of redemption, a scenario that could dissolve into mawkishness, but that Ward pulls off without a false note. A superbly realized work of fiction that, while Southern to the bone, transcends its region to become universal.
Word Count: 85,559
Reading Level: 5.3
Interest Level: 9+
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 5.3 / points: 13.0 / quiz: 152039 / grade: Upper Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:5.7 / points:20.0 / quiz:Q56933
Lexile: 890L

Winner of the National Book Award Jesmyn Ward, two-time National Book Award winner and author of Sing, Unburied, Sing , delivers a gritty but tender novel about family and poverty in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina. 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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