Men We Reaped is a staggering work by Jesmyn Ward, recounting her upbringing in Mississippi as well as detailing the deaths of five men near and dear to her. The title, taken from Harriet Tubman, is your first indication of the novel’s profound power. Ward’s writing style is fully engrossing. She pulls no punches, revealing the various pitfalls of her own life as well as the struggles of those around her, whether they be environmental, drug or alcohol-related, or related to their race or social status. Ward is a writer still plagued by her past, and she brings that past to life as she recounts the deaths of her beloved family members and friends and how they remain with her today. Best known for her award-winning Salvage the Bones, Ward enters the forefront of literary culture as a force to be respected and reckoned with with this work. Told in sometimes excruciating detail, but with pure poetic intensity, Men We Reaped is an enthralling character study of a subsection of America plagued by economic disparity, rampant drug use, and a venomous apathy. Ward, who still lives in her hometown of DeLisle, Mississippi, brings these ideals to life, and, despite offering glimmers of hope, remains unabashedly realistic about the circumstances of her own home life. This book is a fascinating look on the effects of drugs, poverty and social status, not just on black Americans, but for people of all races and cultures.
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