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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Salvage the Bones

Salvage the Bones
Jesmyn Ward
Bloomsbury, 2011

The Batiste family lives in a rural area in Mississippi. The children, four boys and a girl, live with their father. The main character, a fourteen year-old girl named Esch (Esch?) is pregnant. Their mother died soon after the birth of the youngest child, Junior, now eight. The three older children look after each other and Junior, but all are neglected, usually hungry, and alone except for a few friends who usually end up having sex with Esch. As Hurricane Katrina approaches the coast, the father is preparing the house by boarding the windows and fixing the truck in hopes of making money during the clean-up, while Skeet tries to help his dog’s puppies survive their new harsh world, much like the Batiste children are. Meanwhile, Esch worries how to tell the baby’s father and her own that she is pregnant.

I had problems with this novel, one of which is Medea mythology story that Esch reads and identifies with. I just didn’t get it. It felt to me like the author wanted to create a deeper character in Esch – one who had higher aspirations in life that she was probably going to have, being as how she’s pregnant at age 14. I also had some distaste for the dog in the story – which Esch also seemed to identify with in some ways since she had her puppies to care for, much like Esch would have a baby to care for. So I felt like I was being hit over the head with symbolism and “meaning,” but in reality, this book was just depressing. And sad. I think the part that saved it from a 1 or 2 cupcake rating is the love that the siblings felt and eventually showed one another.

Sometimes I think that some authors are just a little too “literary for” my tastes.


Other novels by this author:
Where the Line Bleeds (2008)

Other titles you may enjoy:

Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell (2006)
Reaching her sixteenth year in the harsh Ozarks while caring for her poverty-stricken family, Ree Dolly learns that they will lose their house unless her bail-skipping father can be found and made to appear at an upcoming court date.

Fay by Larry Brown (2000)
This is the saga of 17-year-old Fay Jones, who leaves her family's squalid home with three dollars to hitchhike to Biloxi, Mississippi. Along the way she is befriended by a variety of people whose lives she affects in unpredictable ways, finally becoming the catalyst in a chain reaction of desire and violence.

Sap Rising by Christine Lincoln (2001)
Set against the backdrop of the rural American South, this story captures the lives of a group of struggling young African Americans whose dreams are tempered by their difficult circumstances.

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