I didn't read Jesmyn Ward's first novel, but her sophomore effort is so strong, I will have to give it a read. Her protagonist, fourteen year old Esch, and Esch's brothers are drawn with authenticity and compassion, and their plight with urgency. I particularly enjoyed the underpinning of Greek mythology in Esch's narration. To me, Greek myths are most relevant in the exigencies of life, and the family's poverty and Esch's own situation make the myths especially so. The Greeks tell us about great catastrophes, family tragedies, unrequited love, and tell us what can be salvaged from disaster. Esch, an enthusiastic reader, uses the myths as a kind of shadow narrative of her life and Ward gains a resonance by including them without ever losing the tight focus on Esch and her specific circumstances.