Tensions mount between the brothers when Joshua is offered a job at the pier and Christophe isn’t. The work is grueling and though he is desperate to help keep the household financially afloat, Joshua envies his brother’s lazy summer days. “He woke up each morning drained, and the brutal monotony of the work at the pier stunned him. Something about it felt insulting and wrong. He was jealous and would often not speak to his brother on the way to work, disgusted by the fact that Christophe would spend his day chilling at the park.”
Christophe, frustrated by his lack of employment prospects, considers dealing weed for their older cousin Dunny. It’s the first time his plans for himself begin to veer so far off the track. “He dreamed things, worked for them and they happened. He’d assumed this would continue after he graduated, that there existed steps to his life… The idea of a legitimate job had existed as an absolute in his head. It was the fulcrum upon which the bar of his dreams balanced.”
The growing pains of their fraternal bond reflect the unsparing sticky summer heat of the green lowlands and red clay earth. The question that meanders through the narrative, much like the muddy waters of the Mississippi, is this – at the cusp of adulthood, will the brothers continue to flow together or split like the river as it spills into the Gulf?
Ward was raised in the coastal Mississippi town of DeLisle (her characters’ surname is a nod to her hometown), and lives there today. The cinematic setting of the bayou in “Where the Line Bleeds” lives and breathes as effortlessly as her characters do, and Ward’s appreciation for the landscape shines through her prose. “Natural boundaries surrounded it on three sides … To the north, the interstate capped the small town like a ruler, beyond which thick bristle of pine forest stretched off and away into the horizon. It was beautiful.”
What’s surprising about “Where the Line Bleeds” is how equal in execution and craft it is to Ward’s most recent novel. If nothing else, this re-release serves as an important reminder that Ward is an author for whom there has been virtually no learning curve, and that to encounter “Where the Line Bleeds,” whether for the first or second time, is to experience the resplendent origin of such genius.
‘Where the Line Bleeds’
By Jesmyn Ward
256 pages, $15