Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward (audio)

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Audible, 9+ hrs.
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Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, narrated by January LaVoy, is set in the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, follows the family of Esch, Skeetah, Randall, and Junior as their alcoholic, single father does his best to keep a roof over their heads and protect what little they have from the storm, Hurricane Katrina. Over the course of 12 days, Ward tells the story of this loyal family, not unfamiliar with sacrifice.

Skeetah hopes that his prize-winning pitbull will provide a litter of pups the family can use to earn some cash, at least some of which could be used to help their brother Randall play summer basketball at a camp their father cannot afford. Esch, unfortunately, has no motherly guidance and is surrounded by brothers and relied on too much by her father as a mother to the others. She falls in love with her brother’s friend Manny, but it is clear he’s only interested in what she can give him, and as all things naturally happen, she gives him everything for only heartache in return.

The narration is engaging, even if there are far too many details on some occasions and some of the details are repeated far too many times.

The heart of this story is salvaging from what has been lost — whether that is the lost “love” or what’s left after one parent dies or after a devastating hurricane destroys everything.

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward is a stark look at what it takes to survive in a world where racism and poverty are all anyone sees when your father drinks too much and works hard for so little and when you have no discernible parent there to guide you. Like the dogs who fight in the pit, this family is struggling for survival even before Hurricane Katrina hits.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Jesmyn Ward received her MFA from the University of Michigan and has received the MacArthur Genius Grant, a Stegner Fellowship, a John and Renee Grisham Writers Residency, the Strauss Living Prize, and the 2022 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. She is the historic winner—first woman and first Black American—of two National Book Awards for Fiction for Sing, Unburied, Sing (2017) and Salvage the Bones (2011). She is also the author of the novel Where the Line Bleeds and the memoir Men We Reaped, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize and the Media for a Just Society Award. She is currently a professor of creative writing at Tulane University and lives in Mississippi.