Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward is really unique in style, story, and subject, and I loved it. It’s about a poor family in Mississippi, told over the course of the 12 days leading up to Hurricane Katrina.
- “She left us as dark Gulf and salt-burned land. She left us to learn to crawl. She left us to salvage. Katrina is the mother we will remember until the next mother with large, merciless hands, committed to blood, comes.” (255)
The prose is all in the present tense, giving the story a tempo and sense of urgency paralleling the actual urgency in the lead-up to the storm. Some say that Ward over does it with her lyrical prose (“Ward can get carried away. She never uses one metaphor when she can use three, and too many sentences grow waterlogged and buckle.”) but I loved that part of it. The descriptions are visceral and the language is beautiful – parts read almost like poetry, and some sentences I liked so much I re-read them to myself out loud.
- "We slither like snakes, grab dirt and pine straw with our elbows, and pull. Skeetah stops often, straw and twigs sliding off his slick head to catch on his shoulders like holiday tinsel, and he listens. I stop, too, try my hardest to be so still, to hear the threat, but the blood beats through my ears so strongly I cannot hear anything over that and the whooshing of my breath. Skeetah crawls through a stand, and we start again." (69-70)
- "Maybe the small don't run. Maybe the small pause on their branches, the pine-lined earth, nose up, catch that coming storm air that would smell like salt to them, like salt and clean burning fire, and they prepare like us."(215-216)
- "China is as white as the sand that will become a pearl, Skeetah black as an oyster, but they stand as one before these boys who do not know what it means to love a dog the way that Skeetah does." (162)
Oh and here's a good interview with Ward about how she approached writing about the controversial issues addressed in the book.