• Salvage the Bones

  • A Novel
  • By: Jesmyn Ward
  • Narrated by: January LaVoy
  • Length: 9 hrs and 22 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (217 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Bloomsbury presents Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, read by January LaVoy.

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 14 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 12 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.

©2011 Jesmyn Ward (P)2021 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Critic Reviews

"A taut, wily novel, smartly plotted and voluptuously written. It feels fresh and urgent, but it’s an ancient, archetypal tale.... Jesmyn Ward makes beautiful music, plays deftly with her reader’s expectations." (Parul Sehgal, New York Times Book Review)

"Ward tells the story with a tense patience, marking day after day; when the storm comes, overturning everything, it feels like a fatal relief. At least the waiting’s over. Salvage the Bones expands our understanding of Katrina’s devastation, beyond the pictures of choked rooftops in New Orleans and toward the washed-out, feral landscapes elsewhere along the coast." (New Yorker)

"There's something of Faulkner to Ward's grand diction, which rolls between teenspeak...and the larger, incantatory rhythms of myth. She's fearless about her passion coming out purple, and for the most part the intensity of her story carries it off." (The Paris Review)

Featured Article: Must-Hear Contemporary Black Women Authors


It’s a fact that a high percentage of the best books that have come out in this century have been written by Black women authors. (Truth be told, there are so many excellent works that this list could simply centered on the best contemporary authors and still be accurate.) Nevertheless, Black women’s stories deserve to be heard, and when the stories are this compelling, this engaging, and this beautifully written, they’re impossible to ignore.

What listeners say about Salvage the Bones

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  • Overall
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Good but I wish I hadn't read it.

I can tell it's a well written book but I'm too weak for such a sad story. I think I could have handled just hearing about Katrina and the family dealing with their drama and the storm but the side story with all the sad dog stuff was too hard to handle. I had to read this for a class or I would have bailed.

I mean that with the most respect possible towards the author. Very well written, I was just depressed with everything related to the dog/puppy story line.

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Outstanding book

This is an outstanding book, in fact, one of the best that I’ve read for a long time and the narration was fantastic!

1 person found this helpful

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Not for the faint of heart

This is not an uplifting story. There’s no happy ending. It’s hard, sad, with poverty and animal abuse and child abuse. If you’re sensitive to any of that, don’t do it. Beyond all that, this book is written with 5,000 similes in it. I am not exaggerating. If you’re like me and you have a tendency to notice things like that, just take my advice and don’t do it. You will be infuriated. Every. Sentence. Has. At least. 2. Similes. It’s a long book. As long as a book full of similes. It will infuriate you. You’ll be as mad as a hatter. (You get the picture, it’s excessive).

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A quality narration... Excellent!

I have one very small criticism of this narration. Pronunciation is important for local color. I grew up in Gulfport, MS, so I am sensitive to misspronunciations of regional dialect such as the last name Dedeaux, a very common name down there. There were a handful of other mispronounced local words. Other than that, I highly recommend purchasing this Audible version of the book Salvage the Bones. The narrator did a beautiful and moving performance! Well done!

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Brilliant and both heart wrenching and joyful

This is one of the best books with perfectly matched narrator - January was so believable as if she were the one that had lived the story and thus had written it.

I am from ‘the South’ have been in 2 floods but nothing like Katrina and I have had 7 dogs consecutively in my life - only skipped having one during college and first job - and I know exactly why the brother acted like he did whenever his dog hurt herself or got sick. I am like that to this day with my current dog. He’s too big for me to pick him up for a bed and when he had a terrible Addison’s crisis I laid on the floor, next to him for almost 2 days.

‘Salvage the Bones’ is a truly great book. Jesmyn, thank you for writing it and thank you, January, for reading it.

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Breathtaking

This story drew the listener in to hardship, love, lust and strength of this family. Beautifully written and narrated.

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A literary wonder

The strong storyline and rich characters are elevated by the language and metaphors used to tell the story. This book is not for the squeamish as there is blood and sex, but I was enraptured by it.

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It tried to engage, like a popsicle on a hot day.

The Good: It was a very good story, and I was totally in love with all of the characters. The complexity and closeness involved in the family and close friends was obvious and made me feel like I was part of them. The Narrator! I don't have the words to describe her performance, really. But she had at least 7 different people going with her voice, and I could tell which one was which as easily if there'd been a whole cast. I'm flabbergasted. The Sixth Day is a masterpiece. It's rare for me to feel such suspense and horror at the same time, but she did it. The Bad: The metaphors and similes killed me. At first, some of them were really great, but when I hit a bad one, they all became so choking, because you can't go 3 sentences without one, like an alcoholic with a steady paycheck. They were put together like a cobweb that just got swept away by a broom. They were as annoying as pecans. Anyway, I was about to pull my hair out to get through it, and the only reason I even got through is because of The Good, above. The Ugly: The description of this book kind of sort of mentions dogs by saying that Skeetah sneaks food for his dog (which I don't even remember happening), and that's it. But most of the story is about dog fights. As I said in The Bad, I kept going because the story and characters were so good, but there were a lot of times I had to fast forward because that's absolutely NOT why I got this book. Final verdict: I want to read more books that are narrated by Januaray LaVoy, but I'm not sure I'd read another book by Jesmyn Ward. Well, maybe I would, but only if it's free.

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didn't feel like a chore

This is the only book I've read for school that wasn't a chore to read.

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What was this?

I listened to this book because of the great reviews. I’m so confused. I waited and waited for something to happen and it never did. Probably the biggest disappointment of all the books I’ve listened to.