Salvage the Bones is a brutal and beautiful novel about a family living in rural Mississippi as Hurricane Katrina is about to strike.
Fifteen-year-old Esch is surrounded by boys. She lives with her father and three brothers, whose friends are always around. After sleeping with one of her brother’s friends, she finds out that she’s pregnant.
Meanwhile, her brother Skeetah’s prized pit bull, China, has just given birth, and the puppies are slowly dying. Esch—whose mother died in childbirth—has only ever known motherhood as something that is unmerciful and brutal and tragic.
This is a deeply visceral novel, written in the kind of prose that makes you feel like you can taste and smell and feel everything that Esch is experiencing. There’s violence and harshness within, but also beauty, loyalty and tenderness. Ward explores this juxtaposition in several ways, such as with Skeetah and China, whose bond transcends what you would expect from a boy and the pit bull he owns for dogfighting.
And all the while, the threat of Katrina looms. While Esch and her family doubt the severity of it at first, we readers know what’s coming. This palpable dread mounts to a terrifying and intense denouement that challenges each member of the family in a profound and devastating way.