Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

I'm still reeling from reading this novel. This isn't so much a review, but more like a collection of my thoughts.

Esch is a female protagonist unlike any other. She's growing up in rural Louisiana surrounded by boys and men. The theme of motherhood is thread throughout the story which starts while China, Skeet's prized pit bull, is giving birth to her first litter. We learn that Esch's mother died giving birth to Junior. Then we learn that Esch is pregnant as Hurricane Katrina swirls around in the background. As the hurricane warnings build, life goes on. I've lived in the Midwest my entire life. You don't go to the basement when you first hear the tornado warnings. The warnings slowly build while you go about your life.

One of my favorite elements of this book is the relationships between the siblings. Skeet, Randall, Junior and Esch stick together. They're loyal. They look out for each other as their Dad is adrift in alcohol and grief. Esch's romantic obsession with the myth of Medea and Jason permeates the story as she becomes obsessed with Manny.

There are several dreamlike scenes: looking for chicken eggs from chickens who roost everywhere but the dilapidated chicken coop, the dog fight involving China and 2 other pit bulls in the eerily silent woods as the sun light filters down while the hurricane winds pick up above, Skeet and Esch's journey through the woods to the white farmer's medicine, Randall and Esch's journey through the woods for supplies.

Violence and tenderness are woven together throughout the story. When Esch watches Skeet skin a squirrel, she thinks of her love for Manny as she watches the pulsating heart. China is a majestic character. She is Medea. Skeet's devotion to China makes Esch crave Manny's attention more.

I'm adding Jesmyn Ward to my list of must read authors. Her storytelling skills are major. She often uses one two many metaphors, but I can adjust to that. I anxiously await her next novel.

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