Tag Archives: debut not new

Where the Line Bleeds, by Jesmyn Ward, Debut not new


Where the Line Bleeds

By Jesmyn Ward

Agate Publishing, 2008

239 pages

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.





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We the Animals, by Justin Torres, debut not new


We the Animals

By Justin Torres

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Mariner Books, 2012

128 pages

I was swept away by the brevity of this book and the powerfully rendered language.

Three brothers grow up hungry and poor in a small town in upstate New York. Their parents had their first son at ages 14 and 16 and took the bus to Texas to get married, because 14-year olds could not marry in New York State. But although their parents love each other, they do not get along. The father is violent and the mother dependent, to cope the boys create fantastical worlds of their own. This is a classic coming of age story, told from the POV of the youngest son as he grows from about age 7 to 17. The book sets itself apart with its razor sharp language and poetic chapters that reminded me of Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street.

This book was greeted with universal acclaim when it came out in 2011. If you didn’t pick it up at the time, I highly recommend it. It’s a spare book that will send a chill up your spine.

Torres recently finished a year-long fellowship at Radcliffe.

I bought this book at Powell’s, during a recent trip to Portland, OR.


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