National Book Award for Young People’s Literature 2015
Magical Realism is one of those sub-genres/genres that, when it comes up in my science fiction and fantasy classes, I usually struggle to describe it: “Um… like magic is accepted as everyday… or people eat angels wings? I dunno. It’s a Latin American thing we were assigned in college, so go read Gabriel García Márquez and you tell me….”
Now, I’ll point to Bone Gap and say, “This.”
Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap is not only really good, it’s accessible. Like, you don’t have to be majoring in Literature to feel the poetry of this book.
Bone Gap is the story of an Illinois town of the same name and it’s all about the gaps. It’s about the missing places in our bones, in our lives, in our vision, and about moving between them for love and life and for yourself… and because looking is not the same is truly seeing.
The story mostly follows Finn O’Sullivan. Finn’s life is kind of a mess at the moment because Roza has been kidnapped. Roza is a Polish woman who fell into Finn and his older brother Sean’s life, almost literally, in that Finn discovered her in their barn one morning She slid into a gap they didn’t even know was in their lives. Sean fell madly in love with her, and then, just as magically as she’d appeared, one day she was gone. Finn saw her taken away, but he couldn’t describe the man who kidnapped her, except by the way he moved.
Now, the gaps are gaping and widening, and Finn feels like he’s lost not only Roza, but his brother, too.
There are other characters in Bone Gap, including Petey, a young woman that Finn has been attracted to for years. Petey (neé Priscilla) is a beekeeper that nearly everyone in town, outside of Finn, finds ugly. But Finn is fascinated by her fierce fearlessness with the bees and her sharp mind. They bond over the ridiculousness of college entrance essays, “Write a hundred words about the color red,” and “Describe something that changed your life in the form of a poem.”
The magic in the book mostly revolves around Roza, her beauty, the strange man who stole her away from the world, who he is exactly, and where he took her.
This book is an odd ride, not unlike the one that Petey and Finn end up on with the wild, magical black mare that shows up one night. Things are concrete and sensual while at the same time being oblique and surreal. Normally, this is the kind of book I’d dismiss as ‘too literary’ for me, but somehow it never was. I loved this book all way through, deep into all the crevices and cracks.
Like the s’more dipped in honey that Petey gives Finn, Bone Gap was something I’d never have thought to try, but absolutely loved, once I did.