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Mississippi writer winning high praise for her second novel

Looks like DeLisle native Jesmyn Ward has another outstanding book to her credit. It was just announced that the writer’s second novel, “Salvage the Bones” “is a finalist for the National Book Award. A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and Grisham Writer in Residence at the University of Mississippi, she is presently an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of South Alabama.

“Salvage the Bones” begins twelve days before Hurricane Katrina hits the Gulf Coast and is a fictional look at how one impoverished family in the fictional coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Miss., copes with the impending storm and the storm of their lives.

Esch and her three brothers are stocking food, but there isn’t much to save. They are motherless, and their father is a hard drinker who’s largely absent and doesn’t show much concern. Lately, 14-year-old Esch can’t keep down what food she gets because she’s 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.

Square Books owner Richard Howarth was impressed with Ward’s first book, “Where the Line Bleeds.” “We weren’t the only ones impressed,” he said. “The author’s first novel was an Essence Book Club selection, an American Library Association Honor Book and a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award.”

As writer in residence at Ole Miss, Ward spent much of her time writing. The result is “Salvage the Bones.”

“Now we have her terrific new novel, a story of youth, poverty, love and pain told in twelve chapters over twelve days leading up to Katrina,” Howarth said. “‘Savage the Bones’ is at once powerful, artful, raw and beautiful; fulfilling the author’s many ‘promising writer’ plaudits that accompanied her first novel’s publication.”

Howarth says Ward’s work reminds him of the early careers of Alice Walker, Larry Brown and Toni Morrison.

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