Rule of the Bone by Russel Banks

December 15, 2009
By Technetium SILVER, Reynoldsburg, Ohio
Technetium SILVER, Reynoldsburg, Ohio
5 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.

Rule of the Bone is an interesting but ultimately unrewarding book. It also has too much gratuitous graphic description and has unrealistic supporting characters. It does have a good sympathy factor, but one that is solely based on the events themselves and not Chappie/Bone’s reactions to them. He is not easy to emphasize with, especially in his actions that are destructive for the sake of destruction such as the window in the house and stuff like that. He crosses over the line of crimes you can sympathize with like speeding and parking in the wrong place into breaking and entering and theft, and it doesn’t help that he takes a lot more than he needs in that particular incident.
The story begins with Chappie, aged 14, living with his mother and his stepfather Ken, who he hates. Chappie is already addicted to drugs and he is looking for a way to get some money to pay for them, when he discovers some old and valuable coins stashed in a closet. He sells them and uses the money to buy “weed” from Russ, an older friend who is even more of a loser. After a few months of this, his mother discovers the coins are missing and after an altercation in which Ken hits him several times, Chappie runs away and crashes at Russ’s house for a while. Eventually that becomes impossible and he has to get an apartment with Russ and these crazy bikers that make up a gang called Adirondack(because this all happens in Vermont) Iron. After another long interval, the place catches on fire and burns to the ground. One of the bikers is killed and Chappie and Russ are presumed dead. They like this and make sure to stay out of everyone’s way until nobody’s looking for them anymore, so they change their names and Chappie gets a tattoo of crossed bones and starts calling himself the Bone. The two of them hide out in the summer house of a family from down south and trash the place. When Chappie finally decides to try to go home and give everyone another chance, he smashes the window of the house and screams out it over the mountains “The Bone rules!” How pathetic can you get?
Bone’s mom refuses to take Chappie back on the condition that she breaks up with Ken, so he leaves again and lives for a while with an illegal immigrant from Jamaica in an old abandoned school bus sitting in a vacant lot, where I-Man(as he calls himself) explains about his religion, Rastafarianism, which Bone likes because getting high is a religious experience for Rastafarians. They grow food and a bunch of weed in the lot, where it doesn’t look like anything would grow but I-Man somehow manages to find good soil in all the junk.
I could go on, but I don’t want to give it all away so I’ll just say that some other pretty interesting things happen.
Unfortunately, the characters are all too believable. There are people of every type described in this book. I wish I could say these people were too crazy to be believed, but all their types exist. I find the descriptions of them, however, to be unnecessary and to add nothing to the plot. The point/theme is hard to isolate and it doesn’t really seem to exist. There are a few messages supported by parts of the book, but there is no overarching explanation.
If you want a book that will horrify a bit and be exciting, this is an okay thing to read. Otherwise, it is nothing but a waste of time. The writing is good enough for it to be entertaining and believable, but it does not have any real meaning. It isn’t even the entertainment format of the good guys beating the bad-nothing is resolved at the end, regardless of the author’s attempts to use philosophical thinking on Bone’s part to make it look like it has an ending.

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