Georgina Danforth Witley shares her birthday—April 21, 1926—with Queen Elizabeth II, a coincidence that has led to an invitation to a special 80th-birthday lunch at Buckingham Palace. While she should be on her way to London, Georgie lies injured in a ravine not far from her own house, the result of a car accident en route to the airport. Desperately hopeful that someone will find her, Georgie relies on her strength, her family memories, her no-nonsense wit and a recitation of the names of the bones in her body—a long-forgotten exercise from childhood that reminds her she is still very much alive.Frances Itani brings us a novel that is charming and deeply felt, by turns fanciful and profound. Insightful and beautifully written, Remembering the Bones considers what a life is worth and reminds us that even the most ordinary of lives is extraordinary.
A macabre setup makes for a surprisingly moving read in Canadian writer Itani's second novel to be published in the U.S. (after Deafening). Ottawa born and bred octogenarian Georgie Danforth Whitley has always noted similarities including their birth dates between herself and Queen Elizabeth, whom she privately imagines as "Lilibet, a kind of parallel life-mate." A serendipitous invitation to enjoy a birthday lunch with the queen in London gives Georgie a rare opportunity to experience independence from her 103-year-old mother and her 50-something daughter. However, a momentary distraction on the drive to the airport ends with Georgie's car falling to the bottom of a ravine with no one, except maybe Lilibet, knowing she is missing. Minutes turn into days with a wounded Georgie flashing back to pivotal (and not-so-pivotal) moments in her past as she attempts to crawl to her car. The narrative gathers momentum as Georgie's plight becomes increasingly dire and she searches through her catalogue of memories for a measure of her life's worth. The ending, with its potential for melodrama, is expertly played; throughout, Itani handles her tension-fraught material with a precise, light touch.