“When she was little, someone gave her some weird book called The Wife Store. It was about a very lonely man who decided that he wanted to get married. So he went to the wife store, where endless women lined enormous shelves. He picked himself a wife and bought her. She was bagged up and put in a cart. He took her home. After that, the two of them went to the children store to buy a few kids.
Petey read this book over and over. Not because she liked it, but because she kept waiting for the story to change, kept waiting for the day she’d turn the page and a woman would get to go to the husband store. She kept waiting for justice. But, of course, the story never changed. She never got justice If Petey were keeping one of her lists of the things she hated, she would have to add: the fact that there was no justice. But The Wife Store was still on her shelf at home, if only to remind her that there were assholes in the world who would write such things, believe such things” (Ruby, 2015, p. 207).
This book was… unique, to say the least. While I most definitely enjoyed it, it was very surreal and bizarre from beginning to finish. That being said, the magical realism kept me invested, curious, and reading on until the end. Without a doubt, the best part of this novel was its characters; even the side characters were unique, quirky, and vibrant, and they kept me reading even when the surreal elements confused me. The novel has a surprising message about beauty, love, and relationships, and I really appreciate the creative way in which the author made that message come through.
The story focuses on a town named Bone Gap, where a girl named Roza has just been kidnapped. Unfortunately, the only boy to have witnessed the kidnapping, Finn O’Sullivan, cannot remember the man’s face. Roza, a mysterious girl from Poland, entered the town of Bone Gap and irreversibly changed it, altering the lives of both Finn and his older brother Sean. In Roza’s absence, the two must learn how to connect as brothers once again. At the same time, Finn finds himself falling for the local beekeeper’s daughter Priscilla, who insists that everyone call her Petey. Bone Gap uses elements of both fantasy and realism to tell an interesting tale of brothers, family, and the kinship that comes from living in a small town with just a hint of magic.
Like I said before, my favorite aspect of this book was the characters. Though Finn suffers from an unknown condition (which is later revealed near the end of the novel), he has a heart of gold. When he meets Petey, he sees past the fact that she is not the most beautiful girl in the world. When others mock her and call her ugly (at one point even telling her she was “wrecking the view” when she turned her face to the crowd), Finn sees the soul inside of her (p. 161). He sees that she’s smart unique, and brave, and falls for her soul rather than her face or looks. This is such an important message for both young girls and boys; that it’s more important to see someone for who they are than it is to focus on looks.
In contrast, Roza’s looks actually cause her quite a bit of trouble. At the beginning of the novel, she has been kidnapped by a mysterious man. As the novel progresses, we find out that this is because the man has formed an unhealthy obsession with her beauty. Though the novel clearly shows us that the problem is in the man’s mind, and not with Roza’s beauty, the juxtaposition of this unhealthy obsession with the relationships between Petey and Finn and Sean and Roza. The latter two relationships are built on love, trust, and inner beauty, while the man who kidnapped Roza sees only beauty (and nothing else). As surreal and strange as this novel is, this is the theme that shines through the most. The characters, strong and unique as they are, carry this message, and it is their personal stories that made it so fun to read.
This book reminded me of Leslye Walton’s The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, in that it takes place in our world but adds a touch of magic and wonder. This story is not something that could happen in reality, but the characters seem like they could very much be real people. I’ve noticed that my favorite part of any book is its characters; without strong characters, a book will easily fall flat for me. This book had both an interesting premise and amazing characters, and the characters carried me through the more confusing parts of the novel. This, like Challenger Deep, is not a book I would recommend to reluctant readers; it’s very strange, and very unusual, and is definitely not a book for everyone. In my opinion, however, this book is a creative work with characters I loved and a story that kept me turning the pages until the very end.
Ruby, L. (2015). Bone Gap. New York, NY: Balzer + Bray.