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Salvage the Bones

A Novel
Narrated by: Cherise Boothe
Length: 9 hrs and 53 mins
4 out of 5 stars (1,440 ratings)

Regular price: $21.52

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Publisher's Summary

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

Critic Reviews

“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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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Performance

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Story

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Gillian
  • Austin, TX, United States
  • 03-31-14

Beautiful With No Holds Barred

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.

99 of 103 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

4.39 stars...of blood, bile, piss and destruction

I went between 4 and 5 stars on this novel. Salvage the Bones is really good. I enjoyed it a little more than Sing, Unburied, Sing, also by Ward. I think anyone who enjoyed Sing will enjoy Salvage the Bones and vise versa. Ward's writing is lyrical at times, and she uses a lot similes and metaphors. She also talks a lot about vomit, piss, and blood, and my guess is that this is to provoke a strong reaction in the reader/listener. Overall, this is a good book. I do recommend it to anyone looking for a serious, well-written read.

Overall: 4.39 stars

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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Raw and ragged read

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.

51 of 58 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Improved by discussion with book club

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]

23 of 27 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • B.J.
  • Minneapolis, MN, United States
  • 01-02-13

Brutal

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.

40 of 48 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A must read....

Would you listen to Salvage the Bones again? Why?

I would listen to it again because it was so well written and a beautiful story.

What did you like best about this story?

The characters including the dog.

What about Cherise Boothe’s performance did you like?

The right voice for the right book.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I thought it was profound.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
  • Taryn
  • Suffern, NY, United States
  • 04-26-16

Excellent writing with depressing subject matter

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.

25 of 33 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Rich Narration, Ominous Story

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.

13 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

A long string of similes and metaphors

The language in this book is painfully verbose and uninteresting. There are a few compelling plot or character driven moments, but word for word most of the text consists of excruciatingly long and uncompelling passages. I was fully driven away by the first (of two or three!) verbose descriptions of a dog's sweat. A DOG DOESN'T SWEAT! If you're going to describe the world in painful detail and countless analogies, as last have them be directed to something real.

Not recommended.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful