Buzz and gushing testimonials can be both commercially created and untrustworthy, but Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap deserves every single dollop of praise it has received.
Seriously, I swoon.
Finn O’Sullivan is known for being a dreamer. Other residents of Bone Gap call him “Moonface,” “Spaceman,” “Sidetrack”—some affectionately, some not so affectionately. When Roza—the town darling, beloved by everyone, but most especially by Finn’s older brother, Sean—disappears, Finn is the only witness. He swears up, down, and sideways that she was kidnapped, but he’s unable to provide a description of the man who took her…which leads the police (and worse, Sean) to believe that Finn made up the kidnapping story, that she left on her own, that there’s no need to search for her.
Here are a very few things to love about it:
It’s beautifully written. It’s atmospheric; it’s mesmerizingly rhythmic; at times scary, at times romantic, at times so real that the characters’ experiences will feel like your own memories; there are phrases, lines, sentences, entire paragraphs to savor on every page. It’s entirely emotionally satisfying, too—this isn’t one of those books where the author performs literary slight-of-hand to distract her readers from an ultimately shallow story, this is a book in which the characters, their relationships, and our understanding of them gets deeper, richer, more complex with every chapter. So much so that when they’re in the spotlight, even the secondary characters feel like primaries. Also, it’s FUNNY. Ruby downplays the beauty of her prose—or maybe highlights it?—by regularly shifting gears without warning, moving from Literary to Colloquial, often within the same sentence: He might have stood there for a while, considering the cutaway road and the perfect metaphor it was, if a murder of black crows hadn’t shown up, cawing their stupid heads off.
Did I mention that it’s emotionally satisfying? It’s a warm book, clearly written with love. But it’s also full of rage, and that rage belongs entirely to the female characters—rage about cultural assumptions and expectations, rage about the idea that a woman’s identity is defined by the men in her life, rage about being judged entirely by one’s appearance, rage for being treated as a possession, as a THING that can be OWNED. It’ll be a cathartic read for some and an eye-opening one for others.
It’s a book with a twist, but not an A-HA! twist. Some twists are all about the reveal—they’re super effective in the moment, but once the secret is out, much of the enjoyment is lost. This weekend, I read Bone Gap and Greenglass House—with Bone Gap, I knew the secret going in; I picked up on Greenglass House’s early on—and I suspect that my enjoyment of both books was HEIGHTENED by knowing what was going on ahead of time. It allowed me to appreciate the craftsmanship of each book, to see how Ruby and Milford made those elements obvious to those who know what to look for, but still hidden to those who want to wait for the surprise; from beginning to end, they both stay true to their stories, characters, voices, and worlds, and all without resorting to misinformation or trickery.
And as much as I just want to sit here and keep gushing, Bone Gap is one that is best experienced for oneself. So I’m going to stop here—just…please don’t miss it. It’s my favorite book of the year so far—tied with Susan Juby’s The Truth Commission, but that one doesn’t come out until next month—and I want to share it far and wide.
If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or running the show at her local library, Leila Roy might be making stuff for her Etsy shop while rewatching Veronica Mars, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Babylon 5, Black Books or Twin Peaks. Well, that or she’s hanging out on Twitter. Or both.