Salvage the Bones
by Jesmyn Ward
The Graveyard Book is a children's fantasy book. It traces the story of the boy Nobody Bod Owens, who is adopted and raised by the supernatural occupants of a graveyard after his family is brutally murdered.Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward  #nationalbookaward, #contemporaryfiction,#reading, #BooksToRead, #bookclub, #reading, #books, #salvagethebones, #jesmyward, #awardwinningbook
Book Summary
Winner of the National Book Award

Jesmyn Ward, two-time National Book Award winner and author of Sing, Unburied, Sing, delivers a gritty but tender novel about family and poverty in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina.

A hurricane is building over the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, and Esch's father is growing concerned. A hard drinker, largely absent, he doesn't show concern for much else. Esch and her three brothers are stocking food, but there isn't much to save. Lately, Esch can't keep down what food she gets; she's fourteen and pregnant. Her brother Skeetah is sneaking scraps for his prized pitbull's new litter, dying one by one in the dirt. Meanwhile, brothers Randall and Junior try to stake their claim in a family long on child's play and short on parenting.

As the twelve days that make up the novel's framework yield to their dramatic conclusion, this unforgettable family--motherless children sacrificing for one another as they can, protecting and nurturing where love is scarce--pulls itself up to face another day. A big-hearted novel about familial love and community against all odds, and a wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty, Salvage the Bones is muscled with poetry, revelatory, and real.

Discussion Questions

Were you struck by the amount of blood featured in this book? Why do you think Ward chose such an evocative image to use so often? Compare Esch and China. Can they be mothers and fighters at the same time?

Ward describes her language as hypnotic. Agree?

"I realized that if I was going to assume the responsibility of writing about my home, I needed narrative ruthlessness. I couldn't dull the edges and fall in love with my characters and spare them. Life does not spare us."

We finally find out Junior, Skeetah, and Mama's real names, but not how Steekah got his nickname. Why do you think Ward chose not to reveal this? What about Esch's name? Is that her real name, or a nickname?

The New York Times's reviewer says: "Jesmyn Ward ... plays deftly with her reader's expectations: where we expect violence, she gives us sweetness. When we brace for beauty, she gives us blood." Did you find yourself surprised by the novel?

The New York Times's reviewer also says that Esch is "a singular heroine who breaks the mold of the typical teenage female protagonist. [She] isn't plucky or tomboyish. She's squat, sulky and sexual." What did you think of Esch as a character? Were you able to reconcile her character with your expectations?

The Guardian's reviewer says of Esch: "She's so tough, in fact, that it takes a while to realise how deprived these motherless children are. Details seep out like involuntary revelations." Did you make assumptions about the characters that turned out not to be accurate?

In an interview with NPR, Ward was asked about how she responds to people who say her book is "poverty porn". "You know, it's like you're exposing people's lives in a way that perpetuates the stereotypes that people are just ignorant, passive observers in their own lives, you know, just living, really, in just a litany of sorrows." WARD: "I get angry, because this is the truth. You know, like this is the reality for so many people where I come from and it was the reality for me for a portion of my life... I think, when I write, one of the things that I'm really attempting to do is I'm attempting to humanize my characters. I feel a lot of pressure when I'm writing because I know, you know, if they looked at a synopsis of the book, what they read could only confirm all the stereotypes that they have about us and about people like us." What do you think?

The Los Angeles Times's reviewer thinks that "[t]his would probably be the right place to mention that if you have a problem with dogfights, this might not be the book for you. Or girls having casual sex with their older brothers' friends at age 12, for that matter. Yet the story is told with such immediacy and openness that it may keep judgments at bay." Were you offended by anything in the book? Did the writing or story itself compel you to keep reading?

Many readers identify Esch as the main character, but the Washington Independent Review of Books's reviewer argues that "Esch as a character moves the reader to sympathy, but it is Skeetah who drives the story." What did you think about Skeetah as a character? Who do you think is, or should be, the focus of the story?

Discussion Questions by: Westhampton Free Library

Best Historical Fiction Book
Recent Book Reviews
Book Review -  Take My Hand by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Take My Hand
By Dolen Perkins-Valdez
I learned a lot from this book. I know racial injustices exist, and the Government oversteps boundaries, mostly with minority groups, especially Blacks. But each time I learn of yet another instance of governmental ...More

 Book Review - Goodnight Beautiful by Aimee Molloy
Goodnight Beautiful
By Aimee Molloy
This book kept me guessing, and I loved it! It's an easy, satisfying read you won't want to put down. Suddenly, Sam goes missing, and everything begins to unravel. There were several twists and turns ... More
Book Review - The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
The Midnight Library
By Matt Haig
I would love to find a magical library that lets me explore the what-ifs of life. In fact, I think this was my favorite part of the book. Who doesn't have a regret or two, or wonder how life would be with different choices? ...More

 What To Read Next - West With Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge
West With Giraffes
By Lynda Rutledge
Based on an actual event, West with Giraffes is an endearing story about transporting two young giraffes across the country in 1938. 17-year-old Woody, a dust bowl orphan, finds his way to NY during ...More
Visit Our Blog
Browse A Little
PBR book reviews and Reading guides for book clubs
Visit out Etsy Shop
10 Books I Can't Stop Recommending