“Rule of the Bone” by Russell Banks

As part of my “branching out” I was encouraged to read this 1995 coming of age story about a 14 year old boy named Chappie who finds his way in Jamaica after running away from home.

This novel has been compared to both “Catcher in the Rye” and “Huckelberry Finn” as a modern day version of troubled boy who finds his way.  I can see the comparison and it works.  However, I wasn’t really in the right frame of mind for this.

You see, I have a just turned 15 year old boy who is also trying to find his way.  And it’s hard to watch.

This story is told from the perspective of 14 year old Chappie who later becomes “Bone.”  Bone lives with his mother and abusive stepfather and is living a life of drugs and petty crime.  As a mother, I was cringing with the accounting of toking and smoking and really wanted him to just go and reconcile with his mother.  I guess it hit a little too close to home.

But Bone didn’t listen to me or HIS mother and in fact he ultimately takes off with his best friend and father figure, a Jamacian Rasta man called I-Man.  He and I-Man meet in upstate New York in a broken down school bus but then take their life of drug dealing and petty crime to Jamaica.  My favorite part of the book is when Bone is thinking about how much he has grown up under the guidance of I-man. He says:  “It’s funny how when you change the way you look on the outside even if it’s only with a tattoo you feel different on the inside.  I was learning that it’s true what I-Man’d said, if you work at it long enough and are serious you can become a brand new beggar.”

The characters are likeable, the plot moves along and Banks does an incredible job of creating believable dialogue and channeling the thoughts of a 14 year old troubled boy.

And while I said earlier at times it hit close too home, I realize that my job with my son is to be here, to care, and to make sure I am here to listen.  I think the hardest part of raising teenagers is watching them make mistakes and knowing you have to watch it all happen. That they have to figure it out on their own. I hope my son meets his own I-Man who teaches him how to be “a brand new beggar.”  Whatever the heck that means!



About Anne Loughrey

I am an avid member of several book clubs and a prolific keeper of my books. I love to discuss books and hear what others think of books I have read.
This entry was posted in book clubs, books, reading, Rule of the Bone, Russell Banks. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to “Rule of the Bone” by Russell Banks

  1. Zach says:

    I think I’ve read this book 3 or 4 times and the hardest part to read is when he visits his mom at her office and he’s talking to her and staring at the plant in the corner of the waiting room. I just want to slap him and make him tell her what a scumbag his stepdad really is so she can take care of her son, but every time I get to that part, he still won’t tell her for some reason. Maybe next time he will.

    Sorry if the timing was bad with this story – I find myself laughing out loud constantly throughout this book so I thought you would find it amusing, too. But I think that’s why stories like this and Catcher in the Rye are some of my favorites, because everyone goes through that rebellious phase where their parents are the enemy. I did crap back then my parents still don’t know about, and look at me now….model citizen.

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