Rule of the Bone
In the tradition Huckleberry Finn and The Catcher in the Rye, Russell Banks’s quintessential novel of a disaffected homeless youth living on the edge of society “redefines the young modern anti-hero. . . . Rule of the Bone has its own culture and language, and Bone is sure to become a beloved character for generations” (San Francisco Chronicle).
When we first meet him, Chappie is a punked-out teenager living with his mother and abusive stepfather in an upstate New York trailer park. During this time, he slips into drugs and petty crime. Rejected by his parents, out of school and in trouble with the police, he claims for himself a new identity as a permanent outsider; he gets a crossed-bones tattoo on his arm, and takes the name "Bone."
He finds dangerous refuge with a group of biker-thieves, and then hides in the boarded-up summer house of a professor and his wife. He finally settles in an abandoned school bus with Rose, a child he rescues from a fast-talking pedophile. There Bone meets I-Man, an exiled Rastafarian, and together they begin a second adventure that takes the reader from Middle America to the ganja-growing mountains of Jamaica. It is an amazing journey of self-discovery through a world of magic, violence, betrayal and redemption.
With a compelling, off-beat protagonist evocative of Holden Caulfield and Quentin Coldwater, and a narrative voice that masterfully and naturally captures the nuances of a modern vernacular, Banks’s haunting and powerful novel is an indisputable—and unforgettable—modern classic.
A change in setting halfway through this ambitious novel by the respected author of Continental Drift and Affliction diminishes its effectiveness to a certain degree. The first half, a starkly realistic, powerful portrait of a troubled adolescent whose life has spiraled out of control, packs a visceral punch. Flunking out of school and already hooked on drugs, the 14-year-old narrator, secretly molested by his stepfather, emotionally abandoned by his weak mother, leaves his mobile home in the depressed upstate New York community of Au Sable and becomes a homeless mall rat. In a burst of bravado, he acquires a crossed bones tattoo, changes his name from Chappie to Bone, and attempts to find some focus in his dead-end existence. Convinced that he is destined for a criminal career, Bone vents his anger in acts of senseless destruction. His vulnerability and his need for love and direction are fused when he and a seven-year-old waif he has rescued from a pedophile take refuge in an abandoned schoolbus with an illegal alien from Jamaica called I-Man, whose Rastafarian wisdom and gentle demeanor are fed by liberal consumption of marijuana, which he deals. It is when Bone follows I-Man to Jamaica that the narrative falters. Though the drug-permeated Jamaican milieu is portrayed with impressive authenticity, the improbability of Bone's macabre adventures there frays the plot's credibility. The novel's strengths-Bone's cool, wisecracking voice and colloquial speech, the details of an adolescent's culture-are diluted by its excesses-too many descriptions of marijuana highs, too many coincidences. Yet one finishes the book with indelible sympathy for tough-guy Bone, touched by his loneliness, fear and desperation, and having absorbed Banks's message: that (as he said recently), society's failure to save its children is ``the main unrecognized tragedy of our time.'' 100,000 first printing; $15,000 ad/promo; author tour.
This book is hard to put down, my second time reading it was more enjoyable than the first time! I hope it is adapted into a film as rumored.
Rule of the Bone
What an awesome book!!! I would recommend this read to anyone and everyone! I was able to actually visualize Bone on his many different adventures, feeling so very sorry for him at first and then being happy for him as he becomes a man. Nicely done!!!