Esch Batiste and her brothers (Salvage the Bones, by Jesmyn Ward)Read about the other entries on the list.
In Jesmyn Ward’s magnificent, National Book Award–winning novel, narrator Esch is a 14-year-old girl who’d be completely adrift except for the strong bonds of brotherly love her family provides as she grows up in the fictional Mississippi Gulf Coast town of Bois Sauvage. Esch’s mother died giving birth to her youngest brother, Junior, now 7 years old, while her father is an alcoholic, broken after the loss of his wife. He keeps warning the kids about the storm approaching, that will become Hurricane Katrina. They pay him little mind, as they’ve learned not to rely on him for their daily needs, but instead focus on their own preoccupations—Esch ruminates on her unrequited love for a boy who has gotten her pregnant, while her brother Skeetah cares for his beloved pit bull, who has just had puppies, and her brother Randal tries to score a basketball scholarship. This novel will shred your heart with its power and beauty as it surges toward its climax.