In her acceptance speech for the 2011 National Book Award for fiction, author Jesmyn Ward said “…I wanted to write about the experiences of the poor and the black and the rural people of the south so that the culture that marginalized us for so long would see that our stories were as universal, our lives as fraught and lovely and important as theirs.” If this was the goal for her award-winning novel Salvage the Bones, I certainly believe she achieved it. Salvage the Bones, set in Bois Sauvage, Mississippi in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina, tells the story of the Batiste family struggling to survive daily life in the shadow of a hurricane. Esch, the narrator, is fifteen and pregnant, and alone in a household of men. Her father, an alcoholic since her mother passed away, can think only of protecting the family from the hurricane, while her brother Skeetah is obsessed with his prize fighting pit bull and her pups. Her brother Randall is focused on winning a scholarship to basketball camp, and her little brother Junior relies on Esch to act as mother. Their lives seem dangerously close to falling apart even without the assistance of one the worst hurricanes in American history, and the threat of impending doom creates an uneasy tension in the novel. Salvage the Bones is the story of human struggle, endurance, and love, and I don’t what could be more “fraught and lovely and important” than that.
Salvage the bones