National Book Award, Fiction, 2011
Best-selling author Jesmyn Ward won the National Book Award for this poignant and poetic novel. Unfolding over 12 days, the story follows a poor family living on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. With Hurricane Katrina bearing down on them, the Batistes struggle to maintain their community and familial bonds amid the storm and the stark poverty surrounding them.
©2011 Jesmyn Ward (P)2011 Recorded Books, LLC
“Masterful....Salvage the Bones has the aura of a classic about it.” (Washington Post)
"Ward’s writing is startling in its graphic clarity.… [This] author has an unusual gift." (Boston Globe)
"The novel’s hugeness of heart and fierceness of family grip and hold on like Skeetah’s pit bull." (O: the Oprah Magazine)
SciFi/Fantasy and Classics to History, Adventure and Memoirs to Social Commentary—I love and listen to it all!
This is a story told through the voice of 14 year old Esch, a young motherless girl living in a family of men. And it's a good one.
Living in poverty, a life with few, if any, options and with little hope, she struggles to find tenderness in a world where there's pretty much no room for it. She gives herself, in the name of love, desperate for love in return, but to the wrong person, someone who doesn't see her as a person. No love there.
Indeed, this is a brutal book. The only real tenderness and love given without question goes from Esch's brother, Skeetah, to his dog China, a fighting pit bull. And what she does because she loves him is graphically, realistically written in great detail. It's not for the squeamish. But this is part of the culture in Mississippi and thereabouts (when I did animal rescue in New Orleans after Katrina, I swear. I've never seen so many pit bulls in my life!), and people do what they need, or think they need, to do.
There are so many poor choices, so many circumstances that go fatally awry that it's hard to read this book and keep a stiff upper lip. Things are bad as they are; do they have to get worse? But it is such a good story, layered well, with intense and full character development. Esch is fleshed out, her character added to by her ability to draw parallels between mythology, something she's reading for school, and the circumstances of her own life. It works very, very well.
The only problem with the writing and the narration I had was that both try too hard. Cherise Boothe really captures the voices and tone of the story, but she has a tendency of reading so slowly that I just felt that: Really, I can see that this is important/well done/ beautiful, I don't need such ponderous reading, such pregnant pauses. Also, Jesmyn Ward writes a whole lot of similes. Everything is like this, like that, as this, etc. The only thing that makes this okay and not irritating beyond belief is that what she likens things to wind up being really thought-provoking, really one of a kind images.
The end, the aftermath of Katrina, things come together, revelations are made, there are reactions, possible choices. And, though there is personal and environmental devastation, there is, oddly enough, hope. After such brutality throughout the book, you wonder how things can end up so. But really, you look back and find that there were golden threads of beauty all the way through, shining and beckoning to the reader.
I'm a recovering librarian. Since I had a stroke in 2002 I have found reading print difficult. I am so grateful for audiobooks.
Brutal and savage story told almost entirely in the present tense. I found it both repelling and compelling. In my opinion it had little to do with Katrina (the hurricane) and more to do about surviving in a savage land. Most of the descriptive writing is eloquent, but at times it could have used better editing. Now I'm looking for something that does not use the word detritus once.
I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
Life can be so unfair to the people who have the least. I know this and yet when I listened to the book, it once again became abundantly clear.
It's always interesting to read about an important event from the perspective of a character. It adds a depth of understanding that isn't possible any other way. But, this book is brutal. It's so depressing, so tough. Parts of it were simply too much for me.
The writing is flawless. The subject matter is, like I said, brutal. Don't expect to be uplifted or carried away into fiction oblivion. Expect instead to get a dose of gritty, real life.
The audio books I get tend to be either 1) scifi or 2) things for my husband and me to listen to on long road trips--humor or history
I was unimpressed when I listened to this and was only going to give it 2 stars because I found the book sort of boring, but after listening to my book club discuss it, I have upgraded my rating to 3 stars. There was more going on in it than I at first realized, mostly in terms of the relationships between the characters and their inner lives. Not my cup of tea, but I’m willing to concede that it was a thoughtfully conceived effort.
[I listened to this as an audio book read by Cherise Boothe, who I thought could have differentiated the characters more and put more emotion into it]
I would listen to it again because it was so well written and a beautiful story.
The characters including the dog.
The right voice for the right book.
I thought it was profound.
Addicted to Audible!
I listened to this for my bookclub. If not necessary I would have stopped about 1/3 of the way through. Ms.Ward is a wonderful writer with poetic language and imagery. However, the subject matter is brutal and sad and honestly nothing I needed to read or listen to.It was sad and hopeless. The dogfighting was particularly repugnant, although the way the main character is treated by the men outside her loving family isn't much better. The narrator was excellent.
Cherise Booth is an outstanding narrator and injects warmth and humanity in the main characters. It's easy to see why this book won the National Book Award.
I didn't like the theme of dog fighting that runs through this book but I understand how that is a real part of life in southern Mississippi.
gripping, often tragic story, beautifully and sensitively read. A great listen and a worthwhile addition to a literary library.
I would say that this book ranks in the top 10 of audiobooks I have listened to so far.
The relationship between China and Skeetah was truly unique and as heartwarming as it was destructive to a degree. That Skeetah could really love China seems ridiculous considering he puts her in dog fights. However, this is where the flaws of culture and upbringing come into play.
Able to do distinct voices and really bring each character to life
Skeetah was most memorable because of his dynamic with China that inadvertently isolates him from the rest of the family in a way. The relationship between these two is almost at an obsessive level that is unhealthy. However, as an animal lover I totally get the relationship (minus the dog-fighting).
Wonderful climactic ending! This book brought back some memories of dynamics from my childhood, and I really felt the characters acceptance of their lot on life was a realistic view even though it was depressing.
"A richly told story of a young woman's growing up culminating with the arrival of Hurricane Katrina"
Jesmyn Ward has a gift of story telling. We see the world of recent Mississippi history through a young woman's eyes. Learn about her as a young black woman living in rural Mississippi and her relationships with her brothers, family and community. She parallels her story with the story of her beloved brother's fierce pit bull as the dog gives birth to her first litter of puppies. A compelling story.
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