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Extended Audio Sample Salvage the Bones Audiobook, by Jesmyn Ward Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (7,258 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Jesmyn Ward Narrator: Cherise Boothe Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: July 2012 ISBN: 9781464028946
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Bestselling author Jesmyn Ward won the 2011 National Book Award for Fiction for this poignant and poetic novel.

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 interest in 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 fifteen and pregnant. Her brother Skeetah is sneaking scraps for his prized pit bull’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 twelve days that make up the novel’s framework yield to a dramatic conclusion, the unforgettable family at the novel’s core—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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Few works of fiction can capture the heart-wrenching emotions attached to a natural disaster, and fewer still can do it in a way that seems palpable and fresh…[Salvage the Bones] accomplishes this feat, and then some…From beginning to end, Jesmyn flirts with perfection in this stunning second novel, and the reader is rewarded for it.”

    Free Lance-Star

  • “A pitch-perfect account of struggle and community in the rural South…Though the characters in Salvage the Bones face down Hurricane Katrina, the story isn’t really about the storm. It’s about people facing challenges, and how they band together to overcome adversity.”


  • “It’ll be a long time before its magic wears off…Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretention, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy…Salvage the Bones has the aura of a classic about it.”

    Washington Post
  • Salvage the Bones is an intense book, with powerful, direct prose that dips into poetic metaphor…We are immersed in Esch’s world, a world in which birth and death nestle close, where there is little safety except that which the siblings create for each other. That close-knit familial relationship is vivid and compelling, drawn with complexities and detail.”

    Los Angeles Times

  • “The first great novel about Katrina.”

    Boston Globe

  • “A searing, understated, and big-hearted novel.”


  • “The novel’s power comes from the dread of the approaching storm and a pair of violent climaxes.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “[Salvage the Bones] is uncompromising and frank, showing both beauty and violence, poverty and resilience, in a powerful and poetic voice.”

    Sun Herald

  • “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…[Ward] plays deftly with her reader’s expectations: where we expect violence, she gives us sweetness. When we brace for beauty, she gives us blood.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “With her tough, tense, and taut tale of one rural family’s bitter and bloody fight for survival in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina, [Ward] has secured herself a place among such other great Southern writers as Flannery O’Connor, Harper Lee, and William Faulkner. Ward’s electrifying, exhilarating, edge-of-your-seat second novel, Salvage the Bones, takes us into the naked heart of one Southern family struggling for both survival and identity. With prose both powerful and poetic, Ward has imagined an unforgettable family.”

    Cincinnati CityBeat

  • “Ward uses fearless, toughly lyrical language to convey this family’s close-knit tenderness [and] the sheer bloody-minded difficulty of rural African American life…It’s an eye-opening heartbreaker that ends in hope…You owe it to yourself to read this book.”

    Library Journal (starred review)

  • “From its lyrical yet visceral first scene, this novel had me, and I hardly dared to put it down for fear a spell might be broken. But it never was or will be; such are the gifts of this writer.”

    Laura Kasischke, author of In a Perfect World

  • “Without a false note…A superbly realized work of fiction that, while Southern to the bone, transcends its region to become universal.”

    Kirkus Review (starred review)

  • “Jesmyn Ward has claimed her place both as a contemporary witness of life in the rural south and as a descendant of its great originals.”

    Nicholas Delbanco, author of Sherbrookes and Lastingness: The Art of Old Age

  • “A timeless tale of a family that regains its humanity in the face of incalculable loss.”

    Atlanta Journal-Constitution

  • “The narrator’s voice sparks with beauty as it urges the reader through this moving story set in the shadow of Katrina.”

    Huffington Post

  • “Ward’s redolent prose conjures the magic and menace of the southern landscape.”

    Dallas Morning News

  • A 2011 Washington Post Notable Book for Fiction
  • A 2012 New York Times Book Review Notable Book
  • Winner of the 2012 YALSA Alex Award
  • A 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Best Book for Fiction
  • Winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Fiction
  • Selected for the September 2011 Indie Next List
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • An NPR Bestseller

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Susan | 2/19/2014

    " I loved the way the author showed the loving networks that exist in a harsh environment. Esch (where did that name come from?), Skeetah and China, Junior, and Randall were so strongly rendered that I both read the book and listened to it (the reader was superb)to remember the many small moments of recognition. For instance, Esch compares the way she and Randall carry Daddy back to bed and flip him on it the way they flipped wet sheets on the line when they were too short to hang them properly. So many instances of having to grow up and take responsibility before most others do. Big Henry's benediction was wonderful. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jackie | 2/8/2014

    " Absolutely wonderful! Proper review to follow. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jessie | 1/25/2014

    " ToB 12 once more... This is the second time I've read a Hurricane Katrina book for ToB, although this one was quite different from the first... the story of a girl growing up poor and motherless, with a drunken father and a bunch of brothers in the rural south, this book definitely had its moments. The narrator, who has just discovered that, at 15, she is pregnant, manages to defy a lot of the stereotypes, as does her family. But there is something about the story that ultimately didn't stick with me. In some ways, for me the most interseting thing about it is that Katrina doesn't seem to have been some life-changing thing, which ruined forever this family's former world. Things are bad, things are gone - but they were already bad. It might seem a little uplift-y that everyone came together! and found out they love each other! and every little thing is going to be all right! but i felt the ending struck the right balance between that and the devastation of Katrina. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nonnie Augustine | 1/20/2014

    " Not a pleasant read, but maybe an essential one. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cindy Cunningham | 1/19/2014

    " This book stays with you, and for awhile, I have to confess, you feel mired in it, like you will never escape. And yet, I wonder if that is not the author's intention, to get you so deep into the heat and humidity and abject poverty and sense of no options that you just give up and slog through the pages, reading the characters and hoping for a better outcome. The book is about Hurricane Katrina, but the hurricane does not appear until very close to the end. The book builds as the hurricane does, with growing weight and import until you feel something has to give. The characters get under your skin--even the ones you don't like--and it makes what happens matter. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kevin | 1/17/2014

    " This is one of the best books I've read in a decade. Ms. Ward is the master of the metaphor. Every time she uses a sentence "like...." some jewel awaits. What a story, what a heroine. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Christy | 1/14/2014

    " It was a little tough to read about the dog fighting and the way that the family in the story lived. I thought I was going to be reading about the aftermath of the storm. It was a heartbreaking story that ultimately revealed people who had a strong sense of community without judgement. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kathy Rochford | 1/11/2014

    " story is raw but very good "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Claire | 1/9/2014

    " The writing was melodic and I thought that the pacing of the plot, in conjunction with the arrival of Katrina was crafted beautifully. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Phyllis | 12/27/2013

    " Amazing family loyalty tale amid squalor, poverty, pregnancy and an approaching hurricane. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cyn | 12/11/2013

    " Loved it. Her writing seems effortless. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Amanda | 11/20/2013

    " Every now and then a book comes along that touches you, either emotionally, intellectually, or both. To me, this is the mark of a great novel. Salvage the Bones is one of those novels. It's raw and gritty and real and sometimes very ugly in the most beautiful way. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Heather Brush | 10/22/2013

    " Loved it, but, abhor dog fighting, and wanted more of the hurricane scenes. Lived through a few myself, though none at cat. 5. Could feel the anticipation, the torture of waiting through it. Well done. Ironic how I finished reading this as a storm, Debby, currently churns in the Gulf sea. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tricia | 9/5/2013

    " Read the last few chapters through tears and between fingers to shield myself from what was happening. Well worth the read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Charla | 7/31/2013

    " Took me a while to get into it, but once I did I was hooked. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Tricia Sanders | 3/21/2013

    " I had a hard time with this book, I wanted it to be less about the dog and more about the family....didn't love as many others seemed to. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Stephanie | 12/25/2012

    " I thought it was neat that this book took place over the course of only 12 days. It really made me think about the areas and people who were hit by Hurricane Katrina. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Andrea thalasinos | 10/25/2012

    " Lovely story of this family. Heart-breaking yet gave me such a warm feeling of the love these brothers and sister had for each other and their life in the South. Highly recommended. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Michelle | 10/15/2012

    " It is probably the mood I was in, the book was too dark, too depressing - I don't understand what the author was trying to convey to the reader. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Renee | 6/3/2012

    " It was like reading a story written by someone who had followed all the rules they teach you in high school. There were no rewards for slogging through the slow parts. Just more uptight writing. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mon | 6/2/2012

    " The writing is very descriptive and the story of the family with the pnset of Katrina as the backdrop is hard to put down! "

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About the Author
Author Jesmyn Ward

Jesmyn Ward received her MFA from the University of Michigan and was a recipient of a Stegner Fellowship, a John and Renee Grisham Writers Residency, and the Strauss Living Prize. She is the author of the novels Where the Line Bleeds and Salvage the Bones, which won the 2011 National Book Award. She is also the author of the memoir, Men We Reaped, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and won the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize and the Media for a Just Society Award. She is an associate professor of creative writing at Tulane University.

About the Narrator

Cherise Boothe, an Earphones Award-winning narrator, has worked extensively in theater, film, television, and narration. She has appeared in numerous regional plays, as well as in television shows such as The Good Wife, Law & Order: SVU, and Gossip Girl. She holds an MFA in acting from New York University. She was a finalist in 2015 for the prestigious Audie Award for best multivoiced narration.