I picked up Salvage because I thought it was time for a good Katrina tale and because it won the National Book Award, this must be a good one. Yes and no.
Esch is a terrific character. Despite all her disadvantages, she keeps strong in her attachments to her brothers and to her family in all ways. Outside the family, she finds it easier to say yes than no to sex with the usual consequences. The guy who planted the baby wants nothing to do with her, so she loses out on that score. She’s a thinker, and her continuous comparisons of herself to Medea, though they sometimes seem contrived and overdone, serve to
lift her individual story out of the context of the misery of Mississippi’s Bois Sauvage, where she lives. So far, so good.What drag
s the story, is the storm. It takes so long to arrive that the narrative loses dramatic tension. I suppose
West wants to mirror how thing probably go for people—especially the poor—in the path of a hurricane. They know they should get ready, but life gets in the way. Resources are scarce. Then the rush to prepare at the last second just creates more chaos and confusion.When the thing finally hits, and her brother and his fighting pit bull and her litter and her frantic dad and baby brother strive to survive, there’s drama aplenty, and the aftermath is as touching as it is poignant. If the story hadn’t sagged so badly in the middle, I’dhave given it top marks.