Wednesday, March 16, 2016
"Bone Gap:" Original and Fresh YA Magical Realism
Before I get too far into this, I must admit that "Bone Gap" by Laura Ruby was VERY hard for me to get through.
It's not because this book isn't a book one it's more that I am not a fan of magical realism. I prefer my reality to stay reality and my fantasy to stay fantasy. When everything gets twisted together I get somewhat agitated.
But here's the deal -
Ruby's book is original. It's fresh. It's lyrical and it has stayed with me. It was a National Book Award Finalist as well as a Printz Honor Winner and those awards and numerous accolades make sense.
At the center of the story are two brothers - Sean and Finn O'Sullivan who live on their own after a tragic accident that took the life of their father and then the subsequent departure of their bereft mother. Sean vows to take care of his younger brother, Finn, who is odd even for a small town full of a menagerie of trippy characters. Finn is often beat up by the Rude brothers and called "Moonface" or "Sidetrack" because of his spaced out demeanor. His saving grace seems to be that he's beautiful just like his mom.
When a gorgeous Polish woman named Roza suddenly turns up in their barn with injuries and no story, the brothers quickly fall in love with her - one in a romantic way and the other in more of a brotherly sort of way. When Roza suddenly disappears one year later, no one wants to believe Finn's story that she has been taken by a man whose face he can't describe. Sean believes that everyone wants to leave them, but Finn knows that they need to find her and save her.
Based on the tale of Persephone who gets taken by Hades into the underworld, the realism of small town life gets tangled with black mares, pomegranate cookies, barren gardens, talking corn fields, and prosopagnosia. Ruby's own poetic style interspersed with a honey laden, young love story make the novel even more dream like.
I appreciate the craftsmanship of the complexities and layers of this tale. At it's heart is love and how we view the people that we fall in love with and who love us back, and how that changes the way we view ourselves. It's also about the interconnectedness of small town life full of gossip and secrets - the gaps we fill with stories and those that we leave open for others to discover, as well as the gaps that sometimes swallow us whole. When Charlie Valentine tries to explain the mysteries of Bone Gap to Finn he tells him, "Because we don't have your typical gaps around here. Not gaps made of rocks or mountains. We have gaps in the world. In the space of things. So many places to lose yourself, if you believe that they're there. You can slip into the gap and never find your way out. Or maybe you don't want to find your way out."
It's quite beautiful when I think about it, but I slogged through the reading of this novel vs. enjoying the tale unfold. At times I thought I should abandon it in favor of the other books in my towering bedside stack. But I stuck with it, and I'm glad that I did because I keep thinking about the story and the characters, and I want to read more about Persephone.
If you want something that isn't ordinary or expected, with a mystery, a love story, and a modern twist on a mythological tale, "Bone Gap" is going to be your new favorite book.