Books like this are rare. Even more rare are novels of this depth that are also riveting to the point that you don't want to stop reading because the story is that compelling. Ward has written a bleak and violent masterpiece of great beauty. As bleak and tragic as this novel is, it is also filled with hope, love and tenderness. While she is so original that I won't compare her writing to anyone, I would say that if you are a fan of McCarthy and Faulkner you will find this novel to be satisfying and worthy of sitting on a shelf with the best of them.
The story starts with the tale of a family, a very intelligent girl obsessed with classical literature (particularly the story of Medea) and her brothers and father. It is a story of dog-fighting, familial love and loyalty, and children growing up amid the destruction caused by extreme poverty as they struggle to live and better themselves in the hot swirling dirt of a blasted out Delta town.
Then Katrina hits.
I can see a class devoting weeks to this fine novel, delving into character studies, exploring the overreaching themes of loyalty, love, motherhood, loss, and revenge, tracing the parallels to classical literature. It would be time well spent. This novel is that good. I will be thinking about it for weeks while at the same time recommending it to everyone that I know.