Oh, look! One of my top ten books of the year so far. Once again, I loved it so much I’m not sure that my review will do it justice… but as lots of other people have loved it as well, you can check out their reviews as well – try By Singing Light, Random Musings of a Bibliophile , and the Book Smugglers
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. Performed by Dan Bittner. HarperCollins, 2015.
Roza, a botany student from Poland, mysteriously showed up in the farming town of Bone Gap, Illinois. There she was adopted by Finn and Sean, two brothers who had been abandoned in their turn. And then she vanished again. Finn claimed that he saw her being kidnapped – but he is generally considered dreamy and unreliable, so no one believes him, especially as he can’t describe the kidnapper. His older brother is too heartbroken to try looking.
But Roza was kidnapped. The story goes back and forth in time and in perspective, looking at Roza’s history before she arrived in Bone Gap, the kidnapping from her point of view and the man who offers her everything to stay with him: wealth, beautiful clothes, houses and food – everything except her freedom. We see Finn and Sean as young boys, experience a blossoming romance between Finn and Petey (short for Priscilla), the “ugly” girl in town, and are heartbroken as Finn and Sean’s close relationship falls apart in the face of Roza’s disappearance.
With its beautiful prose and focus on relationships, it could be realistic literary fiction – Sean and most of the residents of Bone Gap certainly think they’re living in a world without magic. But ancient and mythic magic is woven into the fabric of Bone Gap, and Roza’s kidnapper is more than mortal. Finn and Roza are both taken out of the world they have grown up knowing as real, and into one whose rules are new and strange and must be learned over again.
It could also have been a classic damsel in distress story – but Sean, in love with Roza, is too shattered at being abandoned again to do anything to rescue her, and Roza will rescue Finn just as much as he rescues her. Besides having strong characters in peril that kept me up at night worrying for them, this is also a meditation on beauty and its worth, from Roza’s beautiful face that ends up causing her so much grief to Petey’s supposed ugliness. It’s done in a way that allows both Roza and Petey to be more than their faces without denying their reality. It also looks at small-town life and the way people can know each other’s stories without really knowing each other. That’s a lot of literary depth for a story where things actually happen and people behave like real people. Luminous and dark at the same time. Dan Bittner did a great job of reading, making this an extra-good choice for audiobook fans. Go read it if you haven’t already, and share your thoughts if you have.
This is giving me similar feels to Juliet Marillier’s Wildwood Dancing, probably more from the writing style than the settings, which are quite different.