Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

★★★ 1/2
"I will not let him see until none of us have any choices about what can be seen, what can be avoided, what is blind, and what will turn us to stone."

This novel tells the story of one family living in Bois Sauvage, Mississippi before Hurricane Katrina hit in August of 2005.  The story is told from the point of view of Esch, a fourteen-year-old African American living in rural poverty.  Since her mother died eight years ago, Esch’s father has left his four children to primary take care of themselves.  Esch spends much of her time hanging out with her three brothers Randall, Skeetah, and Junior. Throughout the story, Esch learns that she is pregnant and that Skeetah’s friend Manny is the father.

Each chapter of the book is a different day and includes ten days before the hurricane, the day of the hurricane, and the day after.  As the forecast begins to show evidence of a coming storm, the family begins to prepare by collecting food and making their house more secure.  No one thinks that the hurricane will cause much damage and Esch and her brothers are focused on their own problems.  Esch is primarily dealing with the knowledge of her pregnancy and accepting that Manny wants nothing to do with her or the baby.  Skeetah’s dog China has just given birth to a litter of puppies and he is busy taking care of them and training China for a dog fight.  As the oldest, Randall has taken on much of the parenting responsibly and trying to find the money to pay for basketball camp.  He also tries to keep Junior and other others out of trouble.  Their dad seems to be the only one worried about the hurricane even though he is largely absent in the day-to-day lives of his children.  As the hurricane quickly approaches, the family must work together to survive.

I generally enjoyed this novel and I liked the experience of reading a fictional account of Hurricane Katrina.  It reminded me a lot of historical fiction works that I have read except that it was set in a contemporary setting of a recent disaster.  The characters were very well developed and I liked the writing style.

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