Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

This is going to be a short review.  I read Salvage the Bones: A Novel because it was a National Book Award winner and I thought it might be a possibility for my senior English class.  In the end, I had a hard time finishing it.

Salvage the Bones is the story of a poor, rural, African-American family in Mississippi who survive Hurricane Katrina.  Somehow, I was not aware that the vast majority of the plot focuses on dog fighting.  The book is extremely graphic, unnecessarily so in many parts, and it made me sick to my stomach.  I finished the book, just barely, and I’m not sure how it won the National Book Award.  The prose is sparse and it’s well-written, but I have a hard time believing it was the most well-written book of the year.  The characters are unlikeable, the story is too graphic, and there was little plot development.

Not for me.  There are plenty of 5-star reviews out there, but there are also a lot of one-star reviews and abandoned reviews.  This book was not for me.

Appropriate for upper YA, possibly some crossover appeal.  Not for younger YA readers.

4 Responses

  1. Agreed! I likes parts of it quite a bit–but it wasn’t the book I was hoping it would/expected it to be. I cringed my way through the second half.

  2. Thanks so much for the warning. I will NOT read any books dealing with dog fighting or cruelty to animals. I can not imagine being so sick as to have dog kills each other for entertainment. I have read about how and what they use to train these poor dogs, who have no say in it, and it just rips my heart out.

  3. Salvage the Bones is not really about the dogs; it is about the parallels between Hurricane Katrina, families, animals and their place in our lives, and survival. I was blown away by the book. Yes, the culture is a bit foreign to me as an east coast bred white girl; the book exposed me to cultures far beyond my reach or experience visiting the touristy places on the Gulf. Heartbreaking, realistic and yes, a bit uncomfortable, I found Ward’s book to be enlightening and eye-opening.

    • I understand the parallels and it is certainly a powerful book. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the book for me. I would have had the sane issue if the violence was directed at people. The graphic descriptions were too much for me and I had difficulty “liking” any of the characters. There is certainly an audience for the book and it’s an award-winner! I’m glad it was a powerful reading experience for you.

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