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Where the Line Bleeds
Where the Line Bleeds
Jesmyn Ward

We are so thrilled by Jesmyn Ward winning the National Book Award for her second novel, Salvage the Bones (Bloomsbury). When the New Orleans Times-Picayune wrote that Jesmyn Ward's first novel Where the Line Bleeds "heralds good things to come," we can only assume it envisioned Ms. Ward's most recent honor. Essence selected Where the Line Bleeds as its book club's recommended read, praising Ward's "lushly descriptive prose" and "prodigious talent and fearless portrayal of a world too often overlooked." The Literary Fiction Review saw her potential as well saying, "Jesmyn Ward's debut novel immediately sets her apart as a young novelist to watch closely." We hope readers enjoy this book as much as we have and begin spreading the word about Ms. Ward's talents. Congratulations again!

Vivid from first page to last. A major talent here.
--Nicholas Delbanco, author of Spring and Fall and
The Count of Concord


Starkly beautiful...a fresh new voice in American fiction.

--Publishers Weekly (Starred review)


Jesmyn Ward is an important new voice in American fiction. Her writing is distinguished by a simple, patient, and utterly focused attentiveness to the physical details of her characters and their lives. The strength and elegance of her debut novel's story is timeless, but made new in the unfamiliarity (to most from outside this region) of the world she creates—country, but contemporary; poor and black, but rural, not urban.


Set in a rural town on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the book tells the story of the fraternal twins Joshua and Christophe, who are graduating from high school as the novel begins. Both boys anticipate and dread their lives as adults. Joshua finds a job working as a dock laborer on the Gulf of Mexico, unloading cargo. But Christophe has less luck: Unable to find a job, and desperate to alleviate his family's poverty, he starts to sell drugs. Joshua does not approve, but his clumsy concern fractures the twins' relationship. When their long-missing addict father reappears, he provokes a shocking confrontation between himself and the brothers—one that will ultimately damn or save them.


Where the Line Bleeds is unforgettable for the intense clarity of how the main relationships are rendered: the love but growing tension between the twins; their devotion to the slowly failing grandmother who raised them, the obligation they feel to her; and most of all, the alternating pain, bewilderment, anger, and yearning they feel for the parents who abandoned them—their mother for a new life in the big city of Atlanta, and their father for drugs, prison, and even harsher debasements.


Jesmyn Ward herself grew up in a small Mississippi town near New Orleans, and this book makes palpable her deep knowledge and love of this world: black, Creole, poor, drug-riddled, yet shored by strong family ties and a sense of community that balances hope and fatalism, grief and triumph.





Jesmyn Ward, winner of the National Book Award for her second book Salvage the Bones, discusses her first novel and her path to publication.


Title Where the Line Bleeds
Edition First Edition
Author Jesmyn Ward
Audience 01 General / trade
Title First Published 10 October 2008
Format Paperback
Nb of pages 230 p.
ISBN-10 1932841385
ISBN-13 978-1-932841-38-1
GTIN13 (EAN13) 9781932841381
Publication Date 10 October 2008
Main content page count 230
Dimensions 6 x 9 in.
Weight 13 oz.
List Price $8.25
Format PDF
Nb of pages IX - 249 p.
ISBN-10 1-57284-648-8
ISBN-13 978-1-57284-648-7
GTIN13 (EAN13) 9781572846487
Main content page count 249
Front matter page count (Roman) 9
List Price $5.49

Additional Materials

Author of Where the Line Bleeds and Salvage the Bones, Jesmyn Ward accepts her National Book Award for her second novel.

Jesmyn Ward, author of Where the Line Bleeds, discusses what she has been reading.


Press Reviews

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

- Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

Essence Book Club
Reading Ward's lushly descriptive prose, you'll feel the withering humidity of a Mississippi summer, smell the acrid sweat of a hard day's work, and taste the beer and weed that mute the anxiety

A resonant novel for any reader...

Fiction Literary Review
Some books are read in the comfort of a quiet calm. Where the Line Bleeds is not one of those books. Even though this is a book about love, devotion, caring and relationships within a

- Daniel Van Mieghem

Dallas Morning News
Jesmyn Ward's debut novel, Where the Line Bleeds, is an emotionally honest snapshot of an overlooked America: small-town, economically stagnant and black.
- William J. Cobb

School Library Journal
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

- Jamie Watson

The Times-Picayune
Where the Line Bleeds is a richly textured tale. The reader feels the claustrophobic heat of Ma-mee's house in summer without air-conditioning, winces at the sharp surfaces -- in the shop where Christophe hides his dope and on the docks where Joshua does his dangerous work -- rejoices in a family's gift of a car to the graduating boys. Ward knows the bonds of family, the aspirations and desires of young men, the way small town lives intersect and entwine.

- Susan Larson

Boston Globe
Jesmyn Ward grew up in De Lisle, Miss., not far from New Orleans, and her remarkable first novel, "Where the Line Bleeds"(Agate Bolden, $15), is a lyrical yet clear-eyed portrait of a rural South and an African-American reality that are rarely depicted.

Oxford American magazine
Jesmyn Ward offers a unique and troubling account of surviving Katrina in the small town of DeLisle, Mississippi. Ms. Ward is an exceptionally gifted young writer whose debut novel, "Where the Line Bleeds," was selected by the Oxford American as an "Essential New Orleans/Gulf Coast Book."
- Oxford American


"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."

"Jesmyn Ward's debut novel is eloquent in its description of young lives at risk; she's authoritative when writing of both the doomed and the prospect of salvation. 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."

Related News

"Since its establishment in 2002, the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award has been honoring an outstanding first novel published each calendar year.  The finalists are chosen from hundreds of submissions by a wide variety of readers at the university and in the community, after which a smaller panel of judges selects the recipient of the prize."

First Runner-up for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award, 2009

Where the Line Bleeds selected by the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association (PSLA) YA Top Forty (or so) Committee as one of the top forty fiction titles for young adults.  The book was also featured at a workshop in May with over 200 librarians in attendance, and the book will be highlighted in the PSLA's print publication, Learning and Media.  

PSLA Top Forty Fiction Titles for Young Adults, 2008

Where the Line Bleeds was a finalist nominee for a 2009 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for fiction.  The Hurston/Wright awards go ou ot fiction, nonfiction, and poetry books by African-American authors.

Finalist for a 2009 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for fiction

Reader Comments

Reader comment | May 28, 2009, susan wolcott
I just loved this book. Especially the descriptions. I certainly hope Jasmyn reads this review because I think she is a fine writer. As a 59 year old woman, I felt I got a very good glimpse into a world I am not a part of. However, I do live in a rural area and identified with all the descriptions of the nature around these people. Very good.
Reader comment | Mar 28, 2008, Dawn
None of the retailers listed carry this book, which is a real shame because after reading the summary, I really wanted to read the whole thing. Can you direct me to a retailer that is carrying this book?