Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?
Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.
As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.
What kind of book is The Bone Gap? To be honest, I’m not quite sure. An unusual, lyrical, emotional book, it’s about as impossible to classify as it is to pour hot tea out of a chocolate tea pot without the spout melting.
Told in the alternating point of views of Roza and Finn, as well as some other inhabitants of the Bone Gap, the story slowly unfurls and presents itself like the most exotic of flowers. There are occasional flashbacks to Roza’s life in Poland, as well as chapters of what feels like pure fantasy, although you’re never quite sure. Weaving in elements of real world small town life, romance, fairy tale settings and fable-like moral lessons, this is a book where nothing is certain and its impossible to be a complacent reader. Every twist and turn of the narrative kept me wide-eyed and scratching at my head in simultaneous confusion and wonder.
Although I initially felt very detached from Finn as the main narrative voice (though I wonder if this wasn’t a deliberate device used by the author for reasons revealed later in the book), he and the other characters slowly grew on me. Laura Ruby has a talent for both the familiar and the strange, and she built up her characters to a point where I felt as if I was reading about the lives of people I had known for years.
None of the references or metaphors in this book feel overt or obvious and I’m sure that in reality, many of them went over my head. What is obvious, though, is that this book has a lot to say about society’s beauty ideals. The notion of physical beauty and it’s impact on those considered traditionally attractive and unattractive is explored through three of the main characters: Roza, Finn and Petey, all of whom have different expectations of the world around them and the people they interact with based on their outer appearances.
“Do you have a girl? Where’s your girl? Where’s your girl?” “She’s her own girl.”
It would be so easy for this book to turn Roza and Petey into caricatures of the typical ‘beautiful’ girl and ‘ugly’ girl, but Ruby uses their physical attributes and the way they (and others) perceive them to make some really thoughtful and powerful commentary on society’s feminine beauty ideals, feminism and self-worth. Although Finn is the protagonist, this book is really about these two women, so outwardly different but ultimately the same. They’re complex and well-drawn; courageous and headstrong, fierce and vulnerable and both impacted by a vain society that places too much value on the way that we look on the outside. I loved them both.
“There will be boys who will tell you you’re beautiful, but only a few will see you.”
This is magical realism at it’s most magical: worlds collide, fantasy mingles with small town life and you’re never completely sure what’s real and what’s not. I won’t say this was an easy book to read, because it isn’t. It actually took me a really long time to get into, and there were surreal elements that I’m happy to admit I struggled to comprehend. Ultimately though, this is a book about emotion and connection. It’s about beauty and perspective and really seeing people for who and what they are. It’s a beautiful book about beautiful people and ugly people and how the world we live in can be a very ugly place. It isn’t a book for everyone, but it’s a book that will speak to people who can open their minds and ears and listen.
Stars out of five:
- Publisher: Faber & Faber
- Pages: 380
- Publication Date: 3rd March 2015
- For fans of: Magical realism, Moira Fowley-Doyle, Laini Taylor