“The pages fly past with heart-stopping intensity… Ward writes like a dream. A real dream: uneasy, vivid and deep as the sea – praise for Salvage the Bones.”


This novel, currently long listed for this years National Book Award, is the story of a family in the Deep South.

Jojo is a young man growing up with a black mother named Leonie, and a white father named Michael. He and his mom live with her parents. Pop is the real father figure to Jojo and Mama is old and now sickly, but she has the “sight” and Jojo has inherited that from her.

Kylie is Jojo’s little sister. Michael is in prison as the story begins. Pop teaches Jojo about how to work the small farm, and he tells him the story of his life. Mama has tried to do all she can to keep this family together through all its difficult times.

The feelings of the two families regarding this mixed relationship are what you would expect, and these feelings are even more important to the story due to an incident involving Leonie’s dead brother and Michael’s family. But the event that will bring these feelings to a head begins with the trip Leonie and the kids and her friend Misty take to pick up Michael from prison.

Michael has been at Parchman Farm, the same prison Pop spent time in so long ago. And Pop has told Jojo about Parchman, but he hasn’t finished his story. When the family returns they will bring home Michael, but they will also bring home something from the Past that belongs to Pop. The spirit world is very important in this story, and as the novel goes along it takes on a dynamic that will bring this book to its final conclusion.

While reading this book, I was once again driven to think of the so many great authors the Deep South has given us, Jesmyn Ward with this, and her National Book Award winner Salvage the Bones, takes her place amongst them. A terrific novel, a must read.


Reviewed by:

Richard Franco

Added 15th October 2017

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Richard Franco