Let’s start with a confession. Sometimes I totally judge a book by its cover. Or its title. Or some strange connection that only my brain would possibly make. In the beginning, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby suffered such a fate for me. So much so that I actually set the book aside for a few months assuming I knew what kind of story it would be. Thank goodness I got over myself and tried it again. I actually assumed it was a story about a small town (it is) and their struggles with stereotypes (true) and some dark issue eating away at the place and its people (think the movie Winter’s Bone). I mean something really dark and sinister (also true). I’m glad my brain was open enough to read on rather than to roll with the superficial Bone Gap/ Winter’s Bone assumption I concocted, so I didn’t miss the bright clear night sky watching over the people of Bone Gap honoring their hopes, their bonds, and the magic they let transform their lives.
Bone Gap is a small Midwestern town with an unusual cast of characters (like most small towns)–the mean band of brothers, the space cadet teen and his honorable brother whose mother ran off, the man who loves chickens more than people, the beekeeper and her homely daughter; the mysterious Polish girl. And the connectedness of small town life. Everyone knows everyone’s business, family, stories, faults, and kindnesses and when it counts they stand by each other no matter the history.
The story begins with Finn dealing with the guilt of not helping a friend when she needed him. The chapters alternate between what’s happening in Bone Gap and the kidnapping story of the friend, Roza. As the story unfolds, we realize that something magical is at play and it’s not really the unicorn rainbow kind. It’s deep and dark. Murky and exhilarating. And the cornfields hold the passageways between worlds.
I’m not usually one for magical realism, as I have a hard enough time dealing with true reality to handle any magic throwing me off. But I was all in for this ride. And it was beautiful, mysterious, exciting, and full of all that we celebrate about life. Sometimes it reminded me of The Scorpio Races. Sometimes Chime. It even made me stop and look up the myth of Demeter to find the allusions. I enjoyed losing myself in this journey. In feeling the connectedness. And in coming home safe, whole, and a little more magical.