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Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Literary fiction

Salvage the Bones

by Jesmyn Ward

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The award-winning story of a young girl and her brothers, who band together to survive a deadly hurricane nearing their small Mississippi town.

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Synopsis

They heard it on the radio: A hurricane is coming, threatening the town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi. Esch's hard-drinking father can feel it in his bones. Esch and her brothers are trying to help prepare, but there are other worries, too. Skeetah is watching his prized pit bull, helpless as her new litter dies one by one. Randall, when not preoccupied with basketball, is busy looking after the youngest, junior. And Esch, fifteen and motherless among men, has just realized that she's pregnant. The children of this family have always been short on nurture, but they are fiercely loyal to one another. It is together that they will face the building storm—and the day that will dawn after.

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Salvage the Bones

THE FIRST DAY: BIRTH IN A BARE BULB PLACE

China’s turned on herself. If I didn’t know, I would think she was trying to eat her paws. I would think that she was crazy. Which she is, in a way. Won’t let nobody touch her but Skeet. When she was a big-headed pit bull puppy, she stole all the shoes in the house, all our black tennis shoes Mama bought because they hide dirt and hold up until they’re beaten soft. Only Mama’s forgotten sandals, thin-heeled and tinted pink with so much red mud seeped into them, looked different. China hid them all under furniture, behind the toilet, stacked them in piles and slept on them. When the dog was old enough to run and trip down the steps on her own, she took the shoes outside, put them in shallow ditches under the house. She’d stand rigid as a pine when we tried to take them away from her. Now China is giving like she once took away, bestowing where she once stole. She is birthing puppies.

What China is doing is nothing like what Mama did when she had my youngest brother, Junior. Mama gave birth in the house she bore all of us in, here in this gap in the woods her father cleared and built on that we now call the Pit. Me, the only girl and the youngest at eight, was of no help, although Daddy said she told him she didn’t need any help. Daddy said that Randall and Skeetah and me came fast, that Mama had all of us in her bed, under her own bare burning bulb, so when it was time for Junior, she thought she could do the same. It didn’t work that way. Mama squatted, screamed toward the end. Junior came out purple and blue as a hydrangea: Mama’s last flower. She touched Junior just like that when Daddy held him over her: lightly with her fingertips, like she was afraid she’d knock the pollen from him, spoil the bloom. She said she didn’t want to go to the hospital. Daddy dragged her from the bed to his truck, trailing her blood, and we never saw her again.

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Member ratings (1,277)

  • Sara P.

    Cincinnati , OH

    Prose is AWESOME-love the metaphors- I could FEEL them. She expresses the love btwn a boy & dog better than anything I’ve read & my heart broke - for victims of Katrina, climate change, inequality etc

  • Elizabeth C.

    Richmond, VA

    This is a novel about Hurricane Katrina, and it will make you cry. It’s thought provoking, beautifully written, and will stay with you long after you read the final page. I cannot recommend it enough.

  • Isabelle L.

    Madison, WI

    This book was so beautifully written, infused with mythos both as a theme and an allusion, centering itself around women living in men's worlds and the intended/unintended consequences during a storm.

  • Bonnie H.

    Belton, TX

    This book really brought to light the differences in some peoples lives to those who have the comforts they take for granted. This made me cry , laugh, and stand beside the protaganists & her brothers

  • Benita B.

    Baltimore, MD

    Ms. Ward takes the reader on a journey through one of the most catastrophic weather event in our present day history while weaving the story of a loving family trying to make it another day.........

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