Jesmyn Ward’s writing is poetic and incredible. In Where the Line Bleeds, Ward uses a narrative style that struck me with how incredibly it fit into the story. It’s almost a journalistic tone, as though she were recording factual evidence from a story that had already occurred. Her descriptions took me back into the South, giving me perspective and emotional relevance.
Twins Joshua and Christophe live on the Mississippi Gulf Coast with their Ma-mee. Their mother Cille and father are out of the picture, for different reasons. Cille has found work in a much bigger city than Bois Sauvage, and their father has been away their entire lives battling a drug addiction. With the twins graduating from High School in the opening scenes of the book, they are trying to find some jobs to keep themselves and Ma-mee afloat. With Ma-mee going blind, it doesn’t feel like a decision to stay, but as natural as breathing air to stay and show her the love she’s shown them their whole lives.
There’s just one problem: jobs in Bois Sauvage are hard to come by. Joshua gets a call back from the dock, but they don’t seem to want Christophe, at least not at first. With such limited choices, Christophe turns in a direction he doesn’t want to at first, a direction he thought he’d never go. Joshua and Christophe smoke a J every now and then, but they never thought it would be something that would control their lives. Unfortunately, Christophe starts selling drugs, as he feels it’s his only option, and things quickly go downhill in the twins’ relationship after Christophe’s decision.
This was a slow burn of a novel, that shows family dynamics unfolding over the course of just a few months. Although the pacing was slow and there was not much action, I loved this novel fully and completely. After reading this book I plan to read everything Jesmyn Ward has written and will write – I fell in love with this book even more so than I did Sing, Unburied, Sing.
Ward pulls readers out of the story as fast as she dropped us into it. Descriptive language that feels like metaphor left me with closure, despite the abrupt ending and unclear answers. It felt fitting.