Balzer & Bray
March 3, 2015
Just like the name suggests, Bone Gap is a town full of gaps. Gaps no one talks about, but that deep down everyone knows exists. And that’s just one of the reasons why Bone Gap isn’t like other towns.
I love the town of Bone Gap. I love when places feel like characters. I like that this novel takes place in modern times, but when you’re in Bone Gap, it felt like you were stepping through a veil and back in time. New technology exists in their world, but it’s not an essential part of everyone’s life. They spend their time working on the farm, hanging out at the diner, or building fences rather than checking their e-mail and binge watching Netflix. This story could have taken place yesterday, but it also feels like it could have taken place decades ago.
But Bone Gap isn’t just a novel about the town, just like Twin Peaks isn’t just a TV series about that town. It’s also about the people who reside there, particularly, the O’Sullivan brothers, Finn and Sean, and Roza, the girl who lives in the spare room above their barn. Roza isn’t from Bone Gap originally. They don’t know too much about her and what she’s running/hiding from, but it doesn’t matter. The people there love her—especially Sean—which is why, when she goes missing they need someone to blame. And since Finn, Sean’s younger brother, who’s always been a bit spacey, was the last person to see her before she disappeared, that person is him.
In a book full of peculiar gaps in reality, kidnapped girls, and even a mysterious horse, it’s the relationship between Finn and Sean O’Sullivan that stands out the most. Their relationship is complicated, possibly in a way that only relationships with siblings can be complicated. They’re on their own in Bone Gap; their mother remarried and took off, leaving them to fend for themselves. Sean, the older of the two, was forced to give up his dream of going to med school in order to take care of Finn. He’s a paramedic now and good at his job, but it’s still a source of tension between them. Everything Sean could have been, all the people he may have helped, if he hadn’t had to take care of Finn, stands between them.
When Roza appeared one day in their barn, bruised and bleeding and scared out of her skin, things began to change between Sean and Finn. She was a bridge bringing them back together again. So when Roza goes missing and Finn can’t describe the man who took her, those old wounds become fresh again. Why didn’t he help her? Why doesn’t he give a proper description to the police? Or maybe she wasn’t kidnapped. Maybe she wanted to leave … in which case why didn’t Finn stop her?
But this story belongs to Roza just as much as it does Sean and Finn. Roza is a beautiful girl, and she is desired by a rich and powerful man. A man who doesn’t understand that when she says “no” she means “no,” no matter what he offers her. No matter how much he may “love” her in return. Laura Ruby uses Roza and the way men view her to explore some greater issues prevalent in our society. That is what is valued (beauty, men’s desires) above all else (Roza’s own desires).
A similar message is often mirrored in Finn’s love interest, Petey. She’s clever, resourceful and a damn fine beekeeper, but that doesn’t matter to the other resident’s of the town. What matters to them, when she comes up in conversation, is that she’s a little weird and that she didn’t get her mother’s good looks. The town in convinced Finn only spends time with her because he pities her, and even though Petey is tough as nails, the attitude of the world around her begins to wear her down day after day. Just as Roza is supposed to be complacent with being an object to be desired, Petey is supposed to accept that, because she isn’t textbook beautiful and no one will want her.
Bone Gap is a novel about finding love and redemption in a small town. Every character in this book struggles and grows, which isn’t as common as it should be in literature. It’s heartbreaking the different ways the characters hurt one another, but that makes it all the more valiant and inspiring as they try and find their way back to the strength that lies within themselves.