renay: artist rendition of the center of a nebula (Default)
[personal profile] renay posting in [community profile] ladybusiness
cover of Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

The quote on the cover of Bone Gap should have been an immediate "YOU SHALL NOT PASS", because although it's a quote from E. Lockhart (a writer I love) it also invokes magical realism which almost always makes me nervous.

"Bone Gap marks Laura Ruby as one of fiction's most original voices. She is capable of moving you to tears, terrifying you on deep and dreamlike levels, and making your heart shout with happiness. This book is magic realism at its most magical."

Okay, but...magical realism. What is magical realism, anyway? Every time I think I know I realize I don't actually know. It's like another language. Unless you use it every day you lose it. How did I earn an English degree without properly learning all these different terms? Is it writing that's suggestive of magic? A book that uses magic in otherwise normal realities? A type of story that feels magical but isn't (I hear people call The Girls at the Kingfisher Club magical realism sometimes). The label people give something, as Ana suggests, when they don't want to stick a fantasy label on it and appeal to mainstream readers?

I've read Wikipedia now so I know my vote, but this is a personal decision everyone needs to make for themselves. GOOD LUCK.

It's such a tremendously well-done novel that I really wish it owned its anchor genre more. Making up my own literary terms to serve my needs and apply to books without permission: FIVE BONUS POINTS. People who loved Chime by Franny Billingsley will find similar ideas in this book (but with more bees, corn, and male perspectives). They'd also be a fascinating co-read together.

Bone Gap is a story about Finn and Roza: Finn's struggle in his small community and between himself and his family issues, Roza's struggle with expectations of women, and their friendship. It's about Roza's disappearance and how it alters the landscape in the town of Bone Gap, as well as the relationship between Finn and his brother Sean. It's a romance, too, and although I loved so much about the key features of the book this romance ended up being one of my favorite things. One, because I love books that subvert expectations and highlight the importance of multiple types of relationships between men and women. I love romance but I also love really strong platonic relationships that have deep-seated affection and love at their core which never needs to become sexual, so this book is like "HA, I FOOLED YOU!". Two, I love books that show men invested in the pleasure and happiness of their partners. I can't help it! IT'S MY WEAKNESS.

The book tackles commodification of women, standards of beauty, and digs into the idea of perception. It's about how we perceive ourselves as well as the lives of those around us. Coming from a small town myself, the idea that there's a complicated divide between knowing everyone's business and knowing everyone was deftly handled. "I know this feeling," I said to myself more than once when watching multiple characters navigate their lives. It's easy to imagine that you understand what someone's going through if you're in a small social space, but unless you know the person and their perspective it's more than likely you're creating a false knowledge between your perceptions and the perception of others (otherwise known as gossip). It's messy to tease out implications of how each of us deals with what we think of people around us. It's hard to balance how we act due to what we think we know and how that ties in with how those people react based on our reactions. It's a critical look at the complications of people.

It's not a dense book, but it's got a lot going on in it, like DEFERRED DREAMS and BEES and HIP MOMS and HORSES (now that I think about, the horse is a magical realism thing!) . There are also FANTASY ELEMENTS, which are deployed really well. This is a book that's excellent at playing its hand with reveals. I mentioned on FHH that I was curious as to whether men and women would read this book differently, because on the whole I'm in the "this gets TRIGGER WARNINGS, ask me which if you need to" sphere. My partner said he took away what I did, but he lives with and listens to me run off at the mouth, so my sample size is way too small. He mentioned the first part of the book, but didn't specify whether his tension over the developments of the novel got worse. I was wound super tight by the end of this book because the story kept deliberately ratcheting up the tension. SO MUCH TENSION.

The fantasy elements here really made me think of capitalism, aimed at women, personified? The whole idea that we'll eventually buy into the system, accept that our worth rests in our physical appearance, and give into the machine that forces us to treat ourselves like products to be marketed.


After a little distance from my read through, I did find the ending a little too pat/rushed? There were just some revelations I didn't feel like the book purchased fairly from the reader, and they were tossed in to wrap everything up in a bow. Life's not that neat, and it felt like undermining all the nuance it had built up to that point. But I just loved everything else so much this didn't bother as much as it would have otherwise. The other big complaint is that the female friendships aren't a main focus and the book puts more emphasis on other types of relationships between men and women. Although there's a pretty great mother/daughter relationship that pops up a few times. And the center of this specific complaint is that the book isn't long enough for me and I wanted more of everyone. Okay, Renay, don't be greedy. Take the entitlement down a notch. Good job.

If you like social critique in your fantasy/magical realism books, I would highly recommend this one. Plus, there are bees and bee metaphors. You're great, book! HIVE FIVE!

(I know. I'll buzz off.)

(Okay, I'm done now, I swear.)

Other Reviews:
The Book Smugglers, things mean a lot, The Midnight Garden, In The Forest of Stories, SFF Book Reviews, yours?

Date: 2015-04-19 06:10 pm (UTC)
jeeps: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jeeps
perhaps magical realism is more literary but not necessarily in a negative way? I tend to think of it as fantasy elements that are highly metaphorical. a very recent example for me being Signal to Noise; I haven't read Bone Gap yet.

Date: 2015-04-19 06:39 pm (UTC)
jeeps: (mcu ♡ it's in my milk)
From: [personal profile] jeeps
well, bonus is that Signal to Noise is an excellent book, so even if it doesn't clarify the issue it will still be worth it. ;)


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