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Sibling Love Challenges Hurricane Katrina
"Salvage The Bones" honors sibling love.
After devouring Jesmyn Ward's stunning new novel Salvage the Bones, it is no surprise to me that in December, this, her second novel, won the 2011 US National Book Award for fiction. She is the best contemporary writer I have read in quite a while. Like many superb new fiction writers, it took a long time for her writing to get noticed; no doubt another a sign of the deep shit the publishing business is in. Salvage the Bones is written in the voice of fifteen-year-old pregnant Esch, as she and her brothers, their alcoholic father, and a pit bull mother called China get ready for Hurricane Katrina. Of course, who could ever get ready for such a catastrophe? Certainly not this poor black family living in squalor in the Mississippi coastal backwoods. Ward's writing is as savage as the circumstances Esch and her family and their friends live in every day, and yet it is beautiful too. For me the most powerful message was about sibling love; a love that left me in no doubt that this is a bond that will last for Esch and her brothers' lifetimes.