Salvage the Bones
Deviating a little from my planned Summer Reading 2014 due to my grandma's recommendation, Salvage the Bones is a fantastic look at Hurricane Katrina. Author Jesmyn Ward is herself a victim of Katrina; the story definitely has the touch of someone who has lived through such a horrific situation.
"On the day before a hurricane hits, the phone rings. When Mama was living, she picked it up; it is a phone call from the state government that goes out to everyone in the area who will be hit by a storm....I picked it up for the first time yesterday. A man's voice speaks; he sounds like a computer, like he has an iron throat. I cannot remember exactly what he says, but I remember it in general. Mandatory evacuation. Hurricane making landfall tomorrow...There is a list. And I do not know if he says this, but this is what it feels like: You can die."
The protagonist, Esch, a 15-year old with an affinity for mythology, is in a very rough situation. Her mother died in childbirth to her youngest brother, her father is an alcoholic, and she is pregnant. As the New York Times Book Review writes, "is a taut, wily novel, smartly plotted and voluptuously written. It feels fresh and urgent, but it’s an ancient, archetypal tale. Think of Noah or Gilgamesh or any soggy group of humans and dogs huddled together, waiting out an apocalyptic act of God or weather. It’s an old story — of family honor, revenge, disaster — and it’s a good one." I wholly agree. I could not put the novel down. The story begins 10 days before Hurricane Katrina makes landfall, continues during the day of the hurricane and the day after. Esch's family lives right in Katrina's path: the poor bayou town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi. In the Q&A with Ward at the end of the novel, she says she wanted to write about Hurricane Katrina because she lived through it, and she was "angry at the people who blamed survivors for staying and for choosing to return...after the storm." The book is raw and real and has a "narrative ruthlessness." It was undoubtedly a fantastic read. You feel as if you are in Esch's world. The novel isn't simply about Katrina; it is a story of survival, of love, and of family. Highly recommend, if you haven't had the chance to read this yet. Rating: ★★★★★