by Jesmyn Ward
I’ve never belonged to a book group, for several reasons: the books chosen don’t interest me, I’ve already read the selection, I have a to-be-read list five miles long and something else took precedence. For Salvage the Bones (which won last year’s National Book Award), however, I chose to participate in a discussion group on Goodreads, the Literary Fiction by People of Color. This helped me immensely during the reading of this book as I discovered the many nuances of this story through the eyes of others.
Esch is a fourteen year old girl in a small town in Louisiana on property known as “The Pit”. Since her mother died giving birth to the last son, Esch is the only female in this family of boys, with the exception of her brother Skeetah’s prized pit bull, China. The twelve chapters of this book cover the twelve days leading to the arrival of Hurricane Katrina. Esch’s father, an alcoholic long past caring about much in the world, is concerned about the impending storm that everyone else believes will blow over like the others. He tries to take charge and have everyone board up the buildings on their property and stockpile the food they have little money for. But every family member has other issues to distract them: Esch has discovered she is pregnant, Skeetah has a new litter of China’s puppies to deal with, older brother Randall has his basketball dreams that he hopes will take him out of “The Pit”, and baby Junior is on a search for the parenting he missed out on when their mother died.
I know that seems like a lot, but I promise you that I haven’t even touched the surface of this book and what happens during those twelve days. The plot has its ebbs and flows, but reading it with the book group allowed me to see things I would have missed during what seems to be the slower parts of the book. Salvage the Bones was definitely deserving of the awards and accolades that it received last year.
If you’re interested, you can access our Goodreads discussion here.
by Jesmyn Ward