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Where the Line Bleeds

Where the Line Bleeds

4.0 3
by Jesmyn Ward

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Joshua and Christophe are twins, raised by a blind grandmother and a large extended family in a rural town on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. They’ve just finished high school and need to find jobs, but in a failing post-Katrina economy, it’s not easy. Joshua gets work on the docks, but Christophe’s not so lucky. Desperate to alleviate the family&


Joshua and Christophe are twins, raised by a blind grandmother and a large extended family in a rural town on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. They’ve just finished high school and need to find jobs, but in a failing post-Katrina economy, it’s not easy. Joshua gets work on the docks, but Christophe’s not so lucky. Desperate to alleviate the family’s poverty, he starts to sell drugs. He can hide it from his grandmother but not his twin, and the two grow increasingly estranged. Christophe’s downward spiral is accelerated first by crack, then by the reappearance of the twins’ parents: Cille, who abandoned them, and Sandman, a creepy, predatory addict. Sandman taunts Christophe, eventually provoking a shocking confrontation that will ultimately damn or save both twins. Ward inhabits these characters, and this world — black Creole, poor, and drug-riddled, yet shored by family and community— to a rare degree, without a trace of irony or distance.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward's debut novel Where the Line Bleeds:

"Starkly beautiful debut...A fresh new voice in American literature." —Publishers Weekly

"Lushly descriptive prose...with stunning precision. Her prodigious talent and fearless portrayal of a world too often overlooked make her novel a powerful choice for our seventeenth Essence Book Club Recommended Read." —Essence

"I feel like I have read the debut work of the next Faulkner, or Capote, or O’Connor, a great Southern writer whom my children might some day read in their college classes." —Kenneth Jones, Oxford Eagle

"A richly textured tale...like the best fiction, [it] creates its own world." —Susan Larson, New Orleans Times-Picayune

"A resonant novel for any reader." —Booklist

"Jesmyn Ward’s debut novel immediately sets her apart as a young novelist to watch closely." —Daniel Van Mieghem, Literary Fiction Review

"An emotionally honest snapshot of an overlooked America: small-town, economically stagnant and black." —William J. Cobb, Dallas Morning News

"A promising debut." —Kirkus Reviews

"Ward’s beautiful language allows the location and characters to come alive...will appeal to teens who can see themselves here or who are interested in discovering realities far from their own lives." —School Library Journal

"A lyrical yet clear-eyed portrait of a rural South and an African-American reality that are rarely depicted." —Anna Mundow, Boston Globe

"The greatest strength of this novel is Ward's ability to capture in perfect nuance the smallest gestures and details of setting in order to bring the world she depicts to life, often through the wordless way in which the characters communicate." —Jennifer Deitz, Palo Alto Weekly

"Bursting with life - joyous, loving, frustrated and furious - Where the Line Bleeds marks the forceful debut of an exceptional new talent. Jesmyn Ward's vision is at once searingly honest and sweepingly empathic. Her vibrant portrait of a Mississippi Gulf Coast town is peopled by some of the most movingly, achingly human characters I've encountered in fiction in years." — Peter Ho Davies, author of The Welsh Girl

"Jesmyn Ward's debut novel is eloquent in its description of young lives at risk; she's authoritative both when writing of the doomed and prospect of salvation. The lyric gifts displayed in Where The Line Bleeds are very impressive indeed, and the world evoked—the rural south, with its complex web of family devotion and betrayal—is vivid from first page to last. A major talent here." —Nicholas Delbanco, author of Spring and Fall, and The Count of Concord

"Where the Line Bleeds is a rich, subtle, lyrical novel by an important new writer. Jesmyn Ward writes with a miniaturist's attention to detail, with dazzling elegance and precision, but is unwaveringly compassionate in her exploration of character and place. There is suspense here, along with keen insight—the qualities that keep the pages turning. But there is also poetry, and mystery—the qualities that cause the reader to linger in wonder." —Laura Kasischke, author of The Life Before Her Eyes

Publishers Weekly

Impoverished twins living along the Mississippi Gulf Coast struggle to survive after high school in Ward's starkly beautiful debut. Abandoned by their mother and raised by their loving but ailing grandmother, Joshua and Christophe DeLisle know job prospects are slim in rural Bois Sauvage, so they spend their days playing basketball and flirting with the local girls. Eventually, even with no work history, Joshua is hired to work on the docks, but Christophe falls in with the brothers' drug-dealing cousin. Too ashamed to admit that he spends his days in the park selling marijuana, Christophe secretly contributes to the family's expenses with regular "deposits" to his grandmother's purse. But when Christophe decides to start selling more dangerous drugs, tensions between the twins grow, and the arrival of their long-absent drug addict father sparks a violent confrontation. A fresh new voice in American literature, Ward unflinchingly describes a world full of despair but not devoid of hope. (Nov.)

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School Library Journal

Adult/High School

African-American twins Joshua and Christophe graduate from high school and try to find jobs. While Joshua has success becoming a dockworker, Christophe is less fortunate and desperation eventually finds him turning to drug dealing. The teens are loyal to their grandmother, who raised them after their mother moved to Atlanta to start a new life and their addict father disappeared. While this plot (and the book's cover) may be reminiscent of an urban fiction title, the setting is unique-rural Mississippi-and the writing is distinctive. Ward's beautiful language allows the location and characters to come alive, while her dialogue, written in a Southern vernacular, adds further texture. The plot is as leisurely as a hot Mississippi summer day, and although not much happens until the somewhat violent and surprising ending, this fully realized character study will appeal to teens who can see themselves here or who are interested in discovering realities far from their own lives.-Jamie Watson, Harford County Public Library, MD

Kirkus Reviews
Blues on the bayou, and blood to boot. The piney woods of southern Mississippi aren't much of a place. Everyone knows everyone's business, nobody has enough to do, and in between hurricanes there's only trouble to get into. Ward's first novel opens with Christophe and Joshua DeLisle, fraternal twins, preparing to jump into the swirling waters of a muddy river-to cool off, not to kill themselves. It's a portentous moment, for just as each will jump differently, so will their lives take a different course. Caring for an ailing grandmother and just out of high school, the boys are holding their own in this backwater world until temptation presents itself: Joshua finds himself with some folding money after finding a job on the wharves, Christophe with yet more folding money after he takes up selling a little weed after not finding licit work. Danger insinuates itself in the form of the boys' long-absent father, a bad actor with a mean drug habit who likes stronger blends than Christophe has to sell, and the story thenceforth takes turns that can be seen coming from a long way off. Ward's plotting is predictable, but her story is closely observed, full of telling details: "Christophe had fallen asleep in the middle of counting his money, and was stretched out with his arms thrown over his head as if he had been surprised, his mouth open, the bills ragged and bunched underneath him." The author, a native of the Mississippi coast, serves up a world that has been little depicted: the rural African-American South, a place of grinding poverty but enduring loyalties, tragic but somehow noble at the same time. A promising debut.

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8.98(w) x 5.84(h) x 0.79(d)

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Where the Line Bleeds 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
OOSABookClub More than 1 year ago
Jesmyn Ward has written a hopeful novel. The very vivid descriptions coupled with the deep connections shared by fraternal twins, Joshua and Christophe, makes it feel as if you're apart of the story. WHERE THE LINE BLEEDS, admittedly, is slow at times, but, Ms. Ward's precision of the Mississippi dialogue and the dysfunction of the family keeps the book buoyant. Whereas I believe that some readers will find the book complicated, I believe that Ward has provided readers with a pleasant read. I recommend this book to serious readers only! Reviewed by: Peaches 3.5 stars
FrJon More than 1 year ago
Jesmyn Ward has captured the life of a rural South that we rarely hear about. It is an atmosphere with which she is eminently familiar. The characterizations are superb; the plot engaging and the resolution satisfying. Ms. Ward is a product of the locale in Mississippi about which she writes, and she treats the characters and situations familiarly and with great sensitivity.
Both the hope and despair which predominates the life of a black Southern young man in our post-integration days is present at all times throughout the novel. The fates of the two young protagonists seems almost predestined, and their own reactions and the reactions of their other family members are well-wrought.
Ms. Ward is a promising young writer with a vast and fruitful future in front of her. One can only wait patiently for her to produce another masterpiece.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a middle-aged, white case manager born & raised in the Alabama Black Belt I found this to be a seemingly accurate account of the limitations of young black males in rural, impoverished areas in the South. Unemployment, barriers to post-secondary education, limited parenting by biological parents, etc. - all are very prominent factors in this area.