Bone Gap: Review

Bone Gap: ReviewBone Gap by Laura Ruby
Published by Balzer & Bray on March 3, 2015
Genres: contemporary, fantasy
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Amazon • Indiebound • Barnes & Noble • Goodreads

four-half-stars

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.

How do you review an unreviewable book? The entire book reads as if it is a dream. How do you describe a dream? There is an impossibility in trying to make sense of what can not be made sense of. I can try to describe to you the aspects that correlate with reality. But when they take a sudden nose dive into the magical, the inexplicable, the surreal…how do I explain that?

This is a book full of contradictions. It is a fairytale and it is not. It is a love story and it is not. It is a mythical retelling and it is not. On the surface, this is a book about a young woman who has been kidnapped and about her teenage friend’s struggle to come to terms with what happened. But it is so much more than that. What it is is a compelling, tautly told story that conveys the nuances of women’s lives and small town lives and the intersections at which they meet.

It is also an exploration of the way society punishes women for both conforming and not conforming to sexist, patriarchal expectations. There is Roza, so beautiful that she has been kidnapped because she is “the most beautiful woman in the world.” The novel explores the ways that Roza has suffered for her beauty both in her native Poland and in her adopted town of Bone Gap. Then there is Petey, so ugly that her unattractiveness is a constant refrain in the small town of Bone Gap. It doesn’t matter that Petey is a competent beekeeper and keeper of her own self worth. Just as it doesn’t matter that Roza knew the measure of herself as a person beyond her conventional looks.  But this truth remains: Roza and Petey are made of iron and they are the backbone upon which the novel rests.

It is also very much a reflection on how we see (or fail to see) the people we are closest to. And also how we can even fail to see ourselves. There is the creeping sense that so much is going on beneath the surface of the words, and the themes, and the story. And even that I am contemplating what is going on in this book both beneath and above the surface, thinking about it in those exact terms, is an allusion to the mythical roots of the story. This is a deeply clever and well crafted book.

Yes, well crafted. Mostly told through the alternating perspectives of Finn and Roza (with the occasional POV from a supporting character), the story is revealed through flashbacks and quiet moments that creepy stealthily forward. There are so many secrets and layers both to Bone Gap the town and to Bone Gap the book. There are still some things about this book that I didn’t really “get” though I imagine that is also very much the point. I think this is exactly the sort of book that would reward a repeat reading.

I feel unmoored in the reading. There are moments where you question reality. Usually when I read a book I have a good grasp on whether this is a “me” book and even if not I know the type of reader it will appeal to. With this one I have no idea. It floats away from me, drifting on I don’t make such a comparison lightly, but the only thing I could even begin to compare this to is The Raven Cycle. I caught myself at a particular moment fervently chanting “magic is real” just because this book has such a similar grounding in reality yet an inescapable indulgence in the thrilling idea that any flight of fancy could be possible.

I haven’t heard all that much about this book in the blogosphere. I imagine partly this is because it is so hard to pigeonhole. Is it contemporary? Fantasy? Contemporary fantasy? Magical realism? All of the above?  I had little to no idea what this was about before going into it and I think the book is best enjoyed knowing as little as possible. Let the story unfold to you, let the secrets of the characters reveal themselves to both you and to them. Expansive, floating, magical. Lush and dark. Wrought with finely crafted tension and horror but also an inexorable beauty. I have never read a book quite like Bone Gap and I doubt I’ll find its equal in either originality or plot in years to come.

An advance copy was provided by the publisher for this review.

kim teal

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