A profound portrait of family dynamics in the rural South and “an essential novel” (The New Yorker)
“As close to flawless as any reader could ask for . . . The living language [Allison] has created is as exact and innovative as the language of To Kill a Mockingbird and The Catcher in the Rye.” —The New York Times Book Review
The publication of Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina was a landmark event that won the author a National Book Award nomination and launched her into the literary spotlight. Critics have likened Allison to Harper Lee, naming her the first writer of her generation to dramatize the lives and language of poor whites in the South. Since its appearance, the novel has inspired an award-winning film and has been banned from libraries and classrooms, championed by fans, and defended by critics.
Greenville County, South Carolina, is a wild, lush place that is home to the Boatwright family—a tight-knit clan of rough-hewn, hard-drinking men who shoot up each other’s trucks, and indomitable women who get married young and age too quickly. At the heart of this story is Ruth Anne Boatwright, known simply as Bone, a bastard child who observes the world around her with a mercilessly keen perspective. When her stepfather Daddy Glen, “cold as death, mean as a snake,” becomes increasingly more vicious toward her, Bone finds herself caught in a family triangle that tests the loyalty of her mother, Anney—and leads to a final, harrowing encounter from which there can be no turning back.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
In a novel that’ll make you want to hug every kid you know, Dorothy Allison captures the shame, anger, and helplessness of an abusive childhood. Ruth Anne, known as Bone, is a victim of the relentless horror that her supremely unlikable stepfather, Glen, inflicts on her. Her mother’s blind deference to him makes matters much worse. Allison’s raw narrative spares nothing, from family dinners of crackers and ketchup to Bone’s hope that her hands will be as strong as her tormentor’s one day. By the book’s gripping climax, Bone’s show of strength in the face of pain makes it clear why this was adapted into a TV movie—and why that movie won an Emmy.
Allison's remarkable country voice emerges in a first novel spiked with pungent characters ranging from the slatternly to the grotesque, and saturated with sense of place--Greenville, S.C. Ruth Anne Boatwright, 13, got the nickname Bone at birth, when she was tiny as a knucklebone, and the tag acquires painful derivatives, like ``Bonehead.'' While her mother, Annie, a waitress, tries vainly to get the word ``illegitimate'' scrubbed from Bone's birth certificate, her tobacco-spitting granny reminds her she's a bastard. The identity of her real father, whom granny drove away, is kept from her. Surrounded by loving aunts and uncles, Bone still endures ridicule (she's homely, she has no voice for gospel singing) and--from vicious Daddy Glen, her mother's new husband--beatings and sexual abuse. Bone takes refuge in petty crime, like breaking into Woolworth's, and finds her truest friend in unmarried Aunt Raylene, who once had a great love for another woman. Annie gently defends Daddy Glen, blaming her daughter, until the tale's inevitably brutal climax. Mental and physical cruelty to women forms a main theme, illuminated by the subplot of pathetic albino Shannon Pearls, her story rife with Southern gothic overtones. Allison, author of the well-received short story collection Trash , doesn't condescend to her ``white trash'' characters; she portrays them with understanding and love.
I’ve waited years to read this don’t quite know why but it hit me with full impact. When you’re considered white trash and looked down on it sticks with you. When you have alcohol and violence it’s lethal.
An incredible, life altering book.
This is a must read! Although a work of fiction, this story contains such powerful truths. The questions raised are hard, but need to be confronted.
Bastard out of Carolina
Full of feeling....and now , reading the author's incredible afterward....I will reread this book. Meaningful.