I read Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones–winner of the National Book Award–last year. It is worth reading on many levels with a strong main character, gripping storytelling, and compelling prose. BUT I just read Where the Line Bleeds, Ward’s first novel, and I recommend that one even more.
Where the Line Bleeds is set in the fictional town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi. It’s a simple story–twin 18-year-olds graduate from high school and need to figure out what comes next. One of them, Joshua, gets a job at the docks. The other, Christophe, gets no response from the many job applications he fills out. He doesn’t want to go into the business of selling pot, but that feels like his only option.
As I write this, it occurs to me that there’s a moral dilemma at the heart of this novel, but it is not a morality play in any way. It’s a story–a beautiful, heart-wrenching, loving story–about two boys and their family and the way one decision leads to another and another until it feels like there was nothing to decide in the first place.
And then there are phrases like this one: “a loose rope of wind wound its way through the screen” or “the asphalt shimmered like a handheld fan down the length of the road” or “the air reminded Joshua of melting butter.” The prose doesn’t distract. It paints a picture of a world that makes this book read like a film.
I highly recommend it.