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Rule of the Bone: A Novel Paperback – May, 1996


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 390 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPerennial; Reprint edition (May 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060927240
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060927240
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (244 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #178,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A change in setting halfway through this ambitious novel by the respected author of Continental Drift and Affliction diminishes its effectiveness to a certain degree. The first half, a starkly realistic, powerful portrait of a troubled adolescent whose life has spiraled out of control, packs a visceral punch. Flunking out of school and already hooked on drugs, the 14-year-old narrator, secretly molested by his stepfather, emotionally abandoned by his weak mother, leaves his mobile home in the depressed upstate New York community of Au Sable and becomes a homeless mall rat. In a burst of bravado, he acquires a crossed bones tattoo, changes his name from Chappie to Bone, and attempts to find some focus in his dead-end existence. Convinced that he is destined for a criminal career, Bone vents his anger in acts of senseless destruction. His vulnerability and his need for love and direction are fused when he and a seven-year-old waif he has rescued from a pedophile take refuge in an abandoned schoolbus with an illegal alien from Jamaica called I-Man, whose Rastafarian wisdom and gentle demeanor are fed by liberal consumption of marijuana, which he deals. It is when Bone follows I-Man to Jamaica that the narrative falters. Though the drug-permeated Jamaican milieu is portrayed with impressive authenticity, the improbability of Bone's macabre adventures there frays the plot's credibility. The novel's strengths-Bone's cool, wisecracking voice and colloquial speech, the details of an adolescent's culture-are diluted by its excesses-too many descriptions of marijuana highs, too many coincidences. Yet one finishes the book with indelible sympathy for tough-guy Bone, touched by his loneliness, fear and desperation, and having absorbed Banks's message: that (as he said recently), society's failure to save its children is "the main unrecognized tragedy of our time." 100,000 first printing; $15,000 ad/promo; author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

YA?Banks is that rarest of beasts, a writer with daring, skill, and heart. His latest book is equally rare?an adult novel about 14-year-old Bone, told from his perspective with corresponding jargon and without ridicule. From the first page, YAs will be captivated?"Anyhow, my life got interesting you might say the summer I turned fourteen and was heavy into weed but I didn't have any money to buy it with so I started looking around the house all the time for things I could sell but there wasn't much." The boy has a disturbed stepfather, a long-suffering mother, and a long-gone father. The first half of the book chronicles his willing but innocent drift into criminality. His life takes a turn for the better when he moves into an abandoned school bus with a Jamaican mystic. He travels to Jamaica with "I-man," and there he finds his self-centered druggie father, turns 15, is sexually initiated, and loses I-man in a violent drug deal. The remarkable narration immerses readers in Bone's self-contained world. The plentiful dialogue is rendered without quotation marks, a quirk that contributes to the almost claustrophobic feeling of being inside the teen's head. Yet, the power of being there is that when Bone begins to mature and break out of his world, so do readers. This novel is raw and moving. Buy it.?Chip Barnett, Rockbridge Regional Library, Lexington, VA
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Russell Banks is the author of sixteen works of fiction, many of which depict seismic events in US history, such as the fictionalized journey of John Brown in Cloudsplitter. His work has been translated into twenty languages and has received numerous international prizes, and two of his novels-The Sweet Hereafter and Affliction-have been made into award-winning films. His forthcoming novel, The Reserve, will be published in early 2008. President of the International Parliament of Writers and former New York State Author, Banks lives in upstate New York.

Customer Reviews

Without these things a book will get boring and the reader will stop reading, which makes the book unsuccessful.
C. Stile
This book is a good change in the typical reading high school English classes normally do because it opens a new kind of discussion students can relate to.
A.C. Pyott is God.hm cthmt
The style of writing and storytelling made me feel I was in the journey through life with the main character Bone.
Justin L

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

85 of 91 people found the following review helpful By M. G. Jamison on June 13, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I teach high school English, mostly American lit, and without having read this book myself I recommended it to one of my sophomore students for a free-reading unit we were doing. He read it in three days and loved it. I quickly finished the book I had chosen (A STAR CALLED HENRY) and picked up his copy of RULE. I had never read Banks, except for a few short stories here and there, but now I am a complete convert (so much so, in fact, that I'm reading CLOUDSPLITTER now, which makes RULE seem like an even better book than i first thought). i noticed that one reviewer wrote that Banks had gotten the voice of the narrator all wrong. That reader apparently does not spend the majority of his waking hours with teenagers. I do. And let me say that the narration is dead on in every respect. So often critics claim to have discovered the next CATCHER IN THE RYE or the heir to HUCKLEBERRY FINN and never before have I agreed until now. RULE OF THE BONE is a beautiful novel with something real at stake, perhaps something more real than Holden Caufield's three-day ramble (and certainly more engaging). Bone's journey to himself (his "I-self") is visceral and funny and sad and moving. I plan to teach it next year in my modern novel course.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
Saying Rule of the Bone is typical Banks is a good thing. He writes compelling stories with an edge that never lets you feel too comfortable or become too close to the characters since they're generally such sad human beings. My wife says he's smug, I say he's a realist. However, compared to other Banks novels, Bone is a joyride. Plenty or lighter moments and a protagonist who's spunk makes him worth cheering for if not quasi-likeable. While not a fast read, it's quite literal and moves along as quickly as the locales of the story change. Again, Banks explores familial relationships and how they're affected by societal conditions. Perhaps the only thing keeping this book from getting five stars from me is the knowledge that Continental Drift and the Sweet Hereafter exist. Every time I read a Banks book, besides Cloudsplitter, I wonder why he isn't a more popular writer with the status quo. He's a great writer and this is a good book.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Justin L on November 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks was very unpredictable and thus made it very enjoyable to read. The style of writing and storytelling made me feel I was in the journey through life with the main character Bone. Banks' verbose style and lack of punctuation constucted Bone in a very accurate manner. Many young people can relate especially if they are in the same situation as Bone. Also, the slim chances of unusual events taking place became normal in the novel and later in the story it turned out to be imminent. The traditional story-line was broken in many different ways. Don't try to guess what will happen. Read the book. You will be surprised how many plot-twisting occurances happen.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Harnett VINE VOICE on October 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Chappie, the 14-year-old narrator of this powerful novel, is a Huckleberry Finn for the 1990s, with a mohawk haircut and a nose ring.
"Anyhow my life got interesting you might say the summer I turned fourteen and was heavy into weed but I didn't have any money to buy it with so I started looking around the house all the time for things I could sell but there wasn't much."
The house is a trailer in Au Sable, New York, that he's lived in all his life "so I knew the place like I knew the inside of my mouth." But somehow he's overlooked an amazing stash in the closet � a gun and half a dozen plastic bags full of old coins.
His mother and stepfather are both alcoholics, his father abandoned him when he was 5 and his stepfather sexually abused him, which Chappie has never told his mother. Chappie is deeply into anger and rebellion and has no sense of self-worth. When the thefts are discovered, Chappie slams out of the house.
Homeless, Chappie begins dealing weed to keep his spot on the couch in his friend Russ' squalid apartment, which Russ shares with a revolving group of thuggish bikers. He drifts, getting high and hanging out at the mall until the bikers begin boosting stereo equipment. Russ wants in but Chappie wants no part of it.
"For them [adults] I guess what was right was what you could get away with and what was wrong was what you couldn't, but it made me feel stupid that I didn't know it too. It was like the difference between dealing small-load weed and dealing crank � there was one, I knew but I didn't know what it was. The whole thing was scary."
Chappie determines not "to be any worse a criminal than I already was" but the whole thing ends in conflagration, leaving him not only homeless but presumed dead.
Read more ›
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Leander on June 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
I found this book in my school library missorted and looking a little battered. I checked it out and since the first page I couldn't put it down!

It starts off well and doesn't lose momentum. Filled with a sad story of a runaway teen eventually finding his way to Jamaica to see his biological father after being kicked out of his home by his moms new boyfriend.

He gets caught up in drugs, stealing and everything imaginable! It's a book you wont be able to put down, so buy it and create some spare time. It wont let you down!
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