Salvage the Bones

Jesmyn Ward

It’s hard not to think of Benh Zeitlin’s beautiful film Beasts of the Southern Wild while reading this book that is also centered around an impoverished bayou community bracing for an approaching hurricane. The heroines also have similar fierceness nestled in vulnerability and struggle with the absence of their mothers but the presence of wounded fathers.

But Salvage the Bones is specifically set around Hurricane Katrina, and Esch is both older and less isolated with a troop of brothers. She has a reputation for sleeping with any boy who comes on to her, and at the beginning of the story, she discovers she is pregnant. The parallel between her noticing the changes in her body as news of the hurricane increases feels particularly apt. The build of the narrative is impressive, and the entire arc of the storm itself is riveting, yet the ending is a bit anti-climactic in comparison. Though I think Ward was going for a similar uplifting feeling through the stern determination of her characters as in Beasts, it’s a bit hard to believe their lives were somehow swept clean by the storm in a positive way.

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