“The people of Bone Gap called Finn a lot of things, but none of them was his name.”
Bone Gap is a small Illinois town at the edge of some suitably creepy cornfields. The O’Sullivan brothers, Finn and Sean, are reeling from the disappearance of Roza, a young Polish woman whom both loved in different ways. Finn witnessed her abduction but was unable to describe her kidnapper to the police in anything resembling a satisfactory way, and is subsequently wracked with guilt for his inability to either stop the kidnapping or to help find the man who did it. Meanwhile, Roza is a princess in a tower, held hostage by a slew of myths and a man who can do anything and give her anything she could possibly want, all because she is the most beautiful woman in the world. Except she doesn’t want anything he can give her; all she wants is her freedom, which is kind of hard because (HINT, BUT HOPEFULLY NOT TOO SPOILERY) she’s in a really weird fucking place that may not exist on the same plane as we do. Cue interweaving narratives flashing back and forth between past and present, mystery, magic, sex, and some surprising scares.
Bone Gap is a difficult novel to slot into one genre or another. It is a mystery, it is horrific, it is magical realist, it is mythic. It’s shifty, surprising, and unconventional. A lot of people in the YA community (and beyond!) have more or less pooped their pants over it. I liked it, a lot, but I had a few reservations that stopped me from falling in serious love with it.
The story itself and the voice with which Laura Ruby tells it is immediately captivating in its uniqueness. I’ve never read a book like this one, and I probably won’t again. The parts of the narrative told from Finn’s point of view are particularly singular; I can’t really say much here without giving away a pretty big secret that my stupid friend told me right off the bat when he recommended the book to me (why? WHY DO PEOPLE DO THIS?), but let’s just say his perspective is a bit off kilter for a very good reason, and it’s a fun side mystery to puzzle out just WHY Finn is so odd.
Roza’s side of the story is what I had a bit of trouble with. I started off really, really appreciating what Ruby was trying to say with it; that Roza’s beauty is something that people see so clearly and emphatically that they are unable to look past it and actually see her. This was one of my favorite themes of the book; all of the ways in which we actually see each other, and the ways in which these various ways of seeing potentially blind us or allow us to actually understand the essential nature of another person.
This is all well and good, especially the meditations on beauty and how it’s just a happy accident, really, but I couldn’t help but feel like Roza was being punished for being beautiful. All of the terrible things that befall her are either directly or indirectly correlated with her beauty, which seemed unnecessarily harsh, and was a bit of a hard bookish pill for me to swallow. One thing? OK. Two things? Sure. But there was just so much emotional abuse and rape and kidnapping all because she was beautiful; it was too much.
Overall though, this was an excellent read, with a startling mystery, artfully rendered characters (of course Petey’s favorite book is the slyly referenced Blankets by Craig Richardson), bomb ass writerly voice, and all the subtle references to mythology a nerd could dream of. I remember picking up on several to The Odyssey, the Orpheus myth, and the Persephone/Hades myth; I’d be interested to see if any other mythology geekoids noticed others?
The musical pairing is Billy Idol’s “Eyes Without a Face,” why? I can’t tell you, otherwise I’d have to shoot you. Plus, it would be a spoiler 😉 😉 😉