Where the Line Bleeds
By Jesmyn Ward
Agate Publishing, 2008
Jesmyn Ward is one of this year’s MacArthur Fellows. I have read some of her books, but not her debut novel, Where the Line Bleeds, so I decided to pick it up. This book is painstakingly beautiful. Each word, each moment, of the story is vital on the page. I read the book slowly, savoring the vivid world Ward created.
Christophe and Joshua, twins, have just graduated from high school in Bois Sauvage, a small Mississippi town near the Gulf. They were raised by their grandmother after their mother decamped to Atlanta, and their father, a heroin addict, disappeared. Their post high school plan is to find local jobs, at the Walmart, Burger King or, if they can, at the docks or local shipyard where the jobs pay more and are more stable.
The story unspools over the summer after they graduate. The twins’ lives take different paths but they remain steadfastly loyal to each other. I loved the writing in this book. Ward gracefully brought to life two boys who are trying to become men, finding their way in a world with limited financial opportunities. This is a family story, a coming-of-age story and a deeply Southern novel.
I reviewed Ward’s memoir, Men We Reaped, a few years back. And she just published her third novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing. If you have not yet read her work, you can’t go wrong with any of her books. She is a masterful writer.