Jesmyn Ward is a stunning writer. I learned this several months ago when I finally read her first National Award Winning novel, Salvage the Bones. It’s difficult to refrain from feeling when you read her detailed descriptions. And it’s important that you do everything you can to feel, completely. It’s the only way to attempt to know these characters and understand their plight. The first scene of this book was no different. I physically looked away from the page at this moment, only five pages in:
I pull. The goat is inside out. Slime and smell everywhere, something musty and sharp, like a man who ain’t took a bath in some days. The skin peels off like a banana. It surprises me every time, how easy it comes away once you pull.
The language she uses isn’t necessarily spectacular in any way, but the way she commands these otherwise simple words, makes you see the scene. In this case, a scene I really didn’t want to see.
So far the story has been told from two perspectives: Jojo and his mother Leonie. They take turns. A chapter from Jojo and one from Leonie. I’ve been trying my best to read full chapters every time I read, because I have at times forgotten whose perspective I was reading and gotten a little confused. But other than that, the changing of perspectives hasn’t made reading difficult at all.
I will admit when I realized this might be, for the most part, a road trip story, I got a little worried. How much could happen with a few people in a car? How many times could they stop and would they meet interesting people when they did? I was certainly aware of the possibility of race being a source of some tension along the road trip, but even that has only played a very small role so far. But Ward does a great job of creating the tension internally for Jojo and Leonie, lessening the need for external forces to move the plot along.
To put it plainly, I am certainly going to continue with this book. I want to know what happens as the road trip continues. Also, it looks as if some new perspectives are going to be introduced. I’m curious what elements that change will bring.