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Salvage the Bones: A Review

Posted on 16 January 2012


I’ve just finished reading Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones. I spent the first third of the novel wondering what was it about this book that distinguished itself as a winner over any other finalists for the National Book Award, the following two thirds of the book showed me with a resounding roar exactly why it had won.

I know some people tried to read it and never finished it, but I believe the book is a worthwhile read that moves you to see hope–and yourself–in characters mired in a hopeless place. I found myself wanting to encourage others to read the book, so I’ve written a review of the book on Goodreads. I share the first two paras of the review below.

I like books that take you somewhere. That thunder forward with the strength of a tornado, lifting you from whatever milieu you inhabit and dumping you right into another life; takes you by the hand and coaxes you to step into another skin, another soul. Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones does just that.

She sets the tone right from the beginning. The first chapter establishes the family. The main character, Esch, is remembering her mother and her brother’s dog as a puppy. Those memories give way to the revelation that the dog, China, is now having babies—and that Esch’s mother died post-childbirth after bringing her younger brother Junior to Earth. Ward lets you know from the first pages that this will not be a pristine journey—it will be full of dust and mucus, pain and blood.