9780060927240_p0_v1_s114x166 Rule of the Bone                                                                                                        Russell Banks                                                                                               Harper Collins                                                                                           3/28/96                                                                                                  Paperback, 400 pages                                                                                 fiction

Rating:    This was my first encounter with Russell Banks and I cannot wait to read more.  I picked this book up, because I was looking for something a little gritty with a young male protagonist, and it was a staff recommendation at Parnassus.  I have rarely encountered a teenaged voice that sounded so authentic.  This is as much more a story about finding one’s own truth than a typical coming of age.  It is one I will definitely read again.  Five out of five for me.

Overview (reprinted from barnesandnoble.com):    When we first meet him, Chappie is a punked-out teenager living with his mother and abusive stepfather in an upstate New York trailer park. During this time, he slips into drugs and petty crime. Rejected by his parents, out of school and in trouble with the police, he claims for himself a new identity as a permanent outsider; he gets a crossed-bones tattoo on his arm, and takes the name “Bone.”

He finds dangerous refuge with a group of biker-thieves, and then hides in the boarded-up summer house of a professor and his wife. He finally settles in an abandoned schoolbus with Rose, a child he rescues from a fast-talking pedophile. There Bone meets I-Man, an exiled Rastafarian, and together they begin a second adventure that takes the reader from Middle America to the ganja-growing mountains of Jamaica. It is an amazing journey of self-discovery through a world of magic, violence, betrayal and redemption.

Review: There are only a few books any reader experiences that have a concise message that sticks with you, long after you are finished reading.  Rule of the Bone is one of those. The message is “do your own time”.  What Banks’ writing says to me is we are imprisoned on this earth, and in this corporeal world.  You cannot walk anyone else’s path, take their punishments or receive their rewards, no matter how attached to them you might be.  You have responsibilities and you must fulfill them.  Your greatest responsibility is to those who come after you.  

This is a book that will take you on a rugged virtual walkabout from the Northeast United States to Jamaica.  Enjoy it, and learn to live wisely.