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Cannonball Read 2 #24: Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

I loaned this book to a friend, who read about half of it and then returned it saying, "Is nothing supposed to happen?" It's true that it's not a particularly exciting book--there are no explosions, hurricanes, or robot invasions. However, I found the story of Ruth Anne "Bone" Boatwright--a girl born into tough circumstances in a rough-and-tumble "white trash" family in South Carolina--to be utterly riveting.

The Boatwright clan is described brilliantly, and Bone's numerous aunts and uncles (as well as her mama, the youngest of the group) all take on a brightly-colored life of their own. Bone's coming of age story, her attempts to both fit in to her family and to perhaps find a way to rise above it, are excellent. Although it's not a happy story, as life never seems to cut Bone a break, it does a great job of illustrating her careful navigation of family dynamics. Bone has to discover her place, take her knocks, and "become a Boatwright."

I like Allison's style, and the character of Bone has a strong, distinctive voice. As I said, the descriptions of the family are quite good, and make what could be a difficult task (keeping track of all those aunts, uncles, and cousins) easier. On the whole, a great book for those who enjoy quiet character studies.

(The film version starring Jena Malone, Ron Eldard, and Jennifer Jason Leigh is also quite good and I highly recommend it.)


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