I read and loved Salvage the Bones, Ward’s first novel about a poor black and rural family preparing for hurricane Katrina. And I read, and cried, over her memoir Men We Reaped. But this, her latest about mothers and her children, about prison, about drugs, about race and violence and history and the ghosts that haunt us (and keep us company) is by far her most powerful work.
The plot focuses on JoJo, a thirteen year old boy by turns taken care of, and taking care of his drug addicted parents, his baby sister, and his maternal grandparents, while wrestling (literally and figuratively) with the ghosts of his family, and America’s history.
I’m generally not one for magical realism, but Ward does the supernatural elements here with such grace, and such beautiful language, that they seem essential. Of course there are ghosts here, haunting Parchment Farm. How else could it be.
I read this book some time ago now, but I still remember the moment, on a packed train, when I finished it, almost crying, looked up at the dirty roof of the subway car and whispered to myself “holy shit”.
Its that good.