Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I really struggled with rating this one - it was really more of a 3 and a half for me. On the one hand, I thought the book was good - interesting characters, the setting was fascinating & the story of these characters is really gripping and feels true to the setting. However, there were some flaws for me - primarily, the speed & pacing was horrible in my opinion. Some of the writing was uneven to me - some places it was so beautiful that it was almost poetic yet In others, it was dense and repetitive and in need of serious editing. In my opinion, that took away from the overall impact of the story. But, its a really good book in terms of portraying a very specific time, place and cultural/socioeconomic reality. So, I'm ultimately torn in my assessment of the novel.
The descriptions of the impact of Hurricane Katrina was extremely well done. I really felt as if I was there - experiencing the impact along with the characters. Although the actual Hurricane Katrina pieces didn't happen until late in the book, those are the chapters that I think stand out. They are so well written and descriptive as to give the reader a true sense of how riding out Hurricane Katrina (and the aftermath of the impact) must have been for the impoverished families in that community. It was just a stunning portrayal of Katrina.
This novel is NOT easy to read. Beyond the pacing of the novel, there is a dog fighting component as well as a lot of poverty and other kinds of darkness. The dog fighting was well done, in my opinion. It's never fun to read about that kind of brutality but I think it gave me a new perspective on the practice that I'd never thought about. I'll still never understand it. But, I thought that component really gave the story itself another layer that complimented the overall themes. And I didn't find it too graphic - just graphic enough to show the true brutality of the practice but not graphic enough to make me put the book down. The poverty and situations the characters find themselves in were certainly disturbing as well. This is not an uplifting novel. It's dark, haunting and raw.
I think this one is definitely worth the read, despite its flaws. I understand why so many people are giving raving reviews but this novel ultimately didn't wow me. I am eager to see what Jesmyn Ward has in store for us in the future.
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