Review: Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Anna: Read 11/16/18

In Salvage the Bones, Esch and her three brothers help their alcoholic brothers prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Katrina with their father, who is often drunk. Esch’s mother died giving birth to her youngest brother, Junior. Her brother Skeetah’s dog, China, gives birth to puppies, who he hopes to sell as prized fighting dogs. The oldest brother Randall is distant but protective, and Junior is always getting into trouble. But Esch has her own problem—she’s pregnant.

I loved this book! This is my second Jesmyn Ward book after Sing, Unburied, Sing. Her writing is so atmospheric that you can almost feel the sticky Southern humidity as you read. Ward is hands down one of the most lyrical writers I’ve read, and it’s amazing how she can make something as devastating as the destruction of Hurricane Katrina into something beautiful and even hopeful.

The pacing in this is fantastic and mimics the calm before a storm. As the tension builds and builds and the storm approaches, Esch’s pregnancy becomes harder to hide. I loved Ward’s foreshadowing in China’s motherhood to her puppies, the approach of the storm, and all the water/flood imagery.

I also loved the narrator, Esch, and her family, despite their many flaws. Esch’s memories of her dead mother throughout her day to day life make her as present as the other characters, and these descriptions were some of my favorite parts of the book. You can feel their mother’s love in the family by the way they remember her moving around the house, which they ultimately have to fight to save from the hurricane. Esch’s relationship with her brothers and father shifts as the events of the hurricane play out. This is a fantastic story of family and brotherly sacrifice.

Despite the fact that China was a fighting dog, I enjoyed reading about the bond between China and Skeetah. Even though I’m ethically opposed to dogspotting, I found Ward’s ability to write such calm scenes alongside the bloody ones of the dogfights, and then the destruction of the hurricane, impressive.

A word of warning: don’t read this if you can’t handle dogfighting, or other bad things happening to dogs, if you know what I mean. Honestly, this might be the reason I’m not giving it 5 stars/books. 

VERDICT: 4 out of 5 books

I highly recommend checking out Jesmyn Ward. I’ll definitely be reading the remaining two books on her backlist very soon!