Saturday, 16 June 2012

Book at Bedtime: Salvage The Bones by Jesmyn Ward

On Monday evening (11 June) BBC Radio 4’s new Book at Bedtime began. It is Jesmyn Ward’s prize winning novel Salvage the Bones. Set over twelve days, as the 15 year-old Esch & her family tries to avoid the approaching destructive doom, the book culminates in the arrival of Hurricane Katrina. Jesmyn, a professor of creative writing, grew up in The Gulf region of the US, and was shocked by how people talked to her about those who had lost everything in the hurricane. She wrote this story, her second book, to try and make people understand the humanity in others. As she herself says in the Youtube link below, (but I am paraphrasing here) it is not really a story of the hurricane particularly it is the story of how a family and community survives together through love and loyalty.  

Listen to the 1st episode here: Book at Bedtime 

Salvage the Bones won the 2011 National Book Award, and ‘in a starred review, Publishers Weekly called Ward "a fresh new voice in American literature" who "unflinchingly describes a world full of despair but not devoid of hope." Read the wikipedia profile – it is in the about the author paragraph below, Jesmyn is a hugely talented writer – one to watch. Salvage the Bones is her second book, the first was Where the Line Bleeds. 

I am so pleased to hear this story on the BBC, which is being beautifully enacted by the British-Nigerian actress Cush Jumbo. The BBC have put Salvage the Bones into 10 parts and the first episode will disappear from iPlayer on the 18 June.

What’s it about?

A hurricane is building over the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, and Esch's father is growing concerned. He's a hard drinker, largely absent, and it isn't often he worries about the family. Esch and her three brothers are stocking up on food, but there isn't much to save. Lately, Esch can't keep down what food she gets; at fifteen, she has just realised that she's pregnant. Her brother Skeetah is sneaking scraps for his prized pit bull's new litter, dying one by one. 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 a 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.

About the Author

Jesmyn Ward grew up in DeLisle, Mississippi. She received her MFA from the University of Michigan, where she won five Hopwood awards for essays, drama, and fiction. A Stegner Fellow at Stanford, from 2008-2010, she has been named the 2010-11 Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi. Her debut novel, Where the Line Bleeds, was an Essence Magazine Book Club selection, a Black Caucus of the ALA Honor Award recipient, and a finalist for both the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award and the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award.

More about Jesmym Ward:  Wikipedia  Youtube

What they say about it

'Beautifully written ... A powerful depiction of grinding poverty, where somehow amid the deprivation, the flame of filial affection survives and a genuine spirit of community is able to triumph over everything the system and nature can throw at it'
Daily Mail

'Masterful... Salvage the Bones has the aura of a classic about it' Washington Post

'A brilliantly pacy adventure-story as the family battles to escape the rising tide. The pages fly past with heart-stopping intensity... Ward writes like a dream. A real dream: uneasy, vivid and deep as the sea'
The Times

'The novel's hugeness of heart and fierceness of family grip hold on like Skeetah's pit bull' 
Oprah Magazine

Review: The Observer


  1. This book is on my To Read list but I'm going to give the BBC production a listen, if I can get it in my location!

  2. Hello Eugenia, Thanks for commenting. Worth a try on iplayer, I am pretty sure that you can, & even download it to your phone. Worth a try.
    Best, Tricia